MONTCLAIR, NJ - Dozens of Montclair residents participated in a guided tour of the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment area on Tuesday evening.
Leading the tour was Montclair Township's Design Consultant Ira Smith of Smith Maran Architecture, Township Planner Janice Talley and Graham Petto from the Zoning Board. Although it was raining and chilly, participants eagerly follwed Smith inside and outside of the plaza looking at the architechture of the building and lay of the land. Smith encouraged visitors to envision what they would like to see the space used for so that they would have a point of reference for the workshop meeting that follwed the tour.
Smith told the crowd that the purpose of the tour was to assist in developing a plan for the area. "This is so that when you go into the visioning workshop, you'll have an image in your mind." He added, "There's a lot to take in. There are many acres, all kinds of conditions, many are historic and some not."
While inside of the plaza, an unnamed employee who has been working in the building for over a decade said that there are issues with roof leaks, pipes and structural issues that continue to be a problem.
Smith stated that there has been some discussion of moving the police station to the area. Visitors then questioned the reasoning behind also placing the Board of Education and the Municipal builing also on the property, which have been discussed. They were informed that all input is welcomed during the workshop to follow.
Smith added that parking in the area around the current police station poses a challenge and that the Lackawanna Plaza area is more ideal.
He spoke of the history of the area and the building in general. Smith went into detail about how the area looked prior to the construction of its current state. He also told visitors that there is an underground tunnel under the plaza and that "Lackawanna Place used to be called Spring Street because this area was riddled with springs." He added that a brook used to exist in the Lackawanna corner. The brook came into the northwest corner of this lot and forked in a few different directions."
Smith also mentioned that "Montclair...was known for the natural beauty and natural springs....we have lost most of that fabric [with the construction on the property]." He spoke of the brook that continues to flow underneath Montclair and how much of the original granduer has been overshadowed by the buildings on top. He gave a detailed history lesson expressing that each street in Montclair was named after it's natural characteristics from Greenwood to Mountain to Maple to Grove. "The names of the streets record this emphasis on natural history....pick any street you want, we've got Grove, Willow, Park, Valley and as we go higher and higher, Mountain, Highland...They're all terms that refer to natural surroundings."
Immediately following the tour, the group met up with dozens of others to participate in a workshop to collaborate on the plan. Talley expressed that the process will take some time and that there will be additional opportunities for community members to participate in the interactive visioning process.