MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly two dozen residents gathered for a guided walkthrough for the proposed Lackawanna Plaza development on Thursday.
As a follow-up to the meeting held in February by Councilwoman Renee Baskerville of the 4th ward, residents decided to once again gather at the Lackawanna Plaza to hear about the progress for development. A similar walkthrough was held nearly two years ago, in June of 2015.
During the February community meeting, Jason Desalvo, Vice President of the Montclair Planning Board and Ira Smith, presented drawings that included a design that showed 350 units for housing, Mixed space usage of restaurants, retail space and anchoring this would be a super Shoprite, which still has not been confirmed. Councilwoman Renee Baskerville described the area now as "walking into an empty cavern."
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On April 13, the walkthrough of the proposed site was given for any interested residents. In attendance were 4th Ward Councilwoman Baskerville, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager, Desalvo, Janice Talley, Township Planner, Martin Schwartz, Planning Board member, as well as developers of the proposed plan. However, very few community residents were in attendance.
During the walkthrough, one could see exactly what Baskerville was referring to when she called the plaza an "empty cavern." Currently there are only 4 establishments open, including a non profit organization providing clothing, furniture and home items, Dunkin Donuts, a pizza restaurant, Popeye's and Pig and Prince restaurant, which is located in the historic portion of the Lackawanna facility and currently the anchor for the plaza.
During the walkthrough, Desalvo discussed lighting, creating various entrances, maintaining historical aspects of the original interior and skeletal mainframe, square footage, proposed height of proposed housing units in conjunction with what currently exists in the area and the re-routing or closing of Glenridge Avenue to accommodate the the possible mega supermarket.
Smith then gave the historic background of the area and informed residents that the original and historic structure of the building would be preserved. "You're still looking at the original concrete canopy there," Smith said, as he pointed out the historic aspects of the former Lackawanna train station.
Baskerville seemed optimistic, but still expressed concern as to the impact to the community in an area that is already a go with active redevelopment in a small area. For her, Baskerville also stated that affordability is still a concern and that has not been addressed in this plan.
Also expressing concern was long time resident Robin Woods, who voiced her concern of the parking lot adjacent to the Montclair Mews in Lackawanna Plaza, currently being used as a storage area for equipment and material used in the Valley Bloom Development currently underway in another part of the township.
Should plans be approved, residents were informed that the project will take approximately 3 years to complete. Until then, as suggested by one of the attendees, "People in the community could drive to the nearest supermarket." Currently the Township of Montclair is providing bus transportation to the Brookdale Shoprite in Bloomfield.