MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Montclair Planning Board continued hearings on what will be the last piece in the CentroVerde
redevelopment project, the MC Residences building. The residential/retail structure, planned for the
site of Ferrara’s auto body shop and gasoline station on Orange Road, is to complement the two Valley
& Bloom mixed-use buildings, which were both completed by 2016, and the MC Hotel, which opened
last year.

A mistake in the language of the redevelopment plan for the block allowed a 46-unit building
to be constructed there, and the focus is now on a parking plan to make it work. At their February 10
meeting, Planning Board members heard from three different witnesses on parking and loading and also
from Police Lieutenant Stephanie Egnezzo.

Developer Brian Stolar, a partner in both the arts district project on Seymour Street and the stalled
Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment project, opened the meeting by telling the board that the project was
designed to fit into and work with the existing area – especially the parking, which has been
reconfigured to exclude use of the garage across from Centroverde Drive. “We really think that this
project in this location, where the auto body shop and the gas station are located,” he said, “is very
appropriate for the neighborhood. We understand the concerns that there were in place about the
garage, so we’ve completely eliminated any reliance or use on the Orange Road deck.” All parking for
MC Residences will be on the property instead, in the ground-floor-level parking area underneath three
stories of apartments, with ground-floor retail space.

Sign Up for Montclair Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Stolar explained that he didn’t want to give the Planning Board any more angst, but Langan engineer
Karl Pehnke, the first parking expert to testify that night, seemed to do just that. Pehnke explained that
the parking plan, as calculated, would produce 73 parking spaces, with nine of them targeted for the
2,300-sqaure-foot retail space at the ground level. Up to 64 of these spaces would be handled by a 24-
hour, 7-day valet service, with three handicapped spaces for self-parking; one space, a shared-parking
stall, would count for six spaces. Although this would provide ample parking for the residential
component of the building as planned, the developers are seeing a major deviation from the state’s
residential site improvement standards that would require, for a 46-unit project with its mix of one-
bedroom two-bedroom and three bedroom apartments, 1.8 spaces per one-bedroom apartment, 2
spaces per two-bedroom apartment, and 2.1 spaces per three-bedroom apartment, for a total of 87
spaces. Pehnke explained that the state standards for residential parking were a one-size-fits-all
template for spread-pout, suburban housing projects, and that a different standard like the one he was
proposing was more suitable to walkable, transit friendly towns like Montclair. Stolar has been known
to make walkability a prime component of his projects in town.

Board Chairman John Wynn raised concerns. “One of the things that has been troubling me is some
really special conditions that you’re looking to attach to this building, like valet parking,” he said. “Right
now there’s no building there, and we’re going to approve a building to be constructed, which is
different from working with something that’s already there, and trying to adaptively reuse it or modify
it. So we are contemplating . . . putting up a building that’s going to require, for Montclair, some unique
accommodations.” He noted the possible difficulties of visitors of tenants finding places to park, and he
said was troubled by the idea of exclusive valet parking becoming a financial issue if the specific retail
space planned, a grab-and-go food eatery, becomes a passing trend, adding that the 24/7 valet service
would make retail space untenable in the future.

Board member Martin Schwartz asked Pehnke why the project wasn’t designed with less density, which
would allow the building to be constructed without a deviation from the redevelopment plan, and
Pehnke explained that it would have required more spaces for fewer units, which he felt made no sense
in transit-pedestrian-friendly town like Montclair, saying that the deviation would allow “right-sizing”
parking for the project. When Schwartz pressed further, suggesting that Stolar’s Pinnacle company could
have lobbied the mayor and council for a change in the redevelopment plan beforehand, Pehnke said,
“That is an avenue, however, I believe that the proofs that we have before this board and the fact that
you have your master plan and the other redevelopment plans in the area, including Hahne’s, which is
basically a block away, as well as the original redevelopment plan for this site, creates the necessary
proofs for this board to make that decision.” Stolar added that no other multi-family residences in
Montclair go by the state parking standard, and reducing the density to comply with a demand of more
parking would make it economically unfeasible.

Other Planning Board members had concerns about the details of the project. Second Ward Councilor
Robin Schlager said she wouldn’t want to rent an apartment where valet service was required, and the
applicants responded that they could easily rent to tenants who have no such problem, admitting that
required valet service isn’t for everyone. Board member Carole Willis expressed doubt of the viability of
the retail space without a successful grab-and-go eatery, where the food would be prepared off site, and
she said that perhaps a restaurant with seat limits commensurate to available parking. Schwartz noted
that there already is a restaurant, the Allegory, next door in the hotel, and traffic expert Gerard Giosa,
who was testifying at the time, said that the retail plan for a grab-and-go eatery, with an emphasis on
pedestrian customers, was specifically tailored to avoid an overburden of parking in the area. “I get
what they’re going for,” he said.

Kristen Sokich of Propark also testified on the parking management plan. Cars parked long-term would
be stored on lifts to the rear of the parking area while cars parked short-term would be parked on the
surface. Residents would be given credentials to park, while visitors would get validation tickets and
have their cars parked based on the duration of their stay. Only handicapped drivers would self-park. It
would take 18 to 25 seconds to raise a car on a lift and up to 40 seconds to move a car on ground level
and take a car off the lift. All of this would be operated by the valet. Shared parking would be operated
on a credential system, where a Zipcar user would have to show his or her credential to park in the
space, and a Zipcar user would have to make arrangements in advance to pick up a car at the site. No
one could just walk into the lobby and request a car at the spur of the moment.

Lieutenant Egnezzo testified on the effect of parking on Orange Road during and after construction. She
said that there are parking spaces for ten cars directly across the hotel that could be used for overnight
parking, and that they ideally should be for residents only. Lieutenant Egnezzo also clarified the
location of the NJ Transit bus stop on Orange Road, where confusion has reigned since the now-
completed work on the hotel led to the removal of bus stop signage. The stop is directly in front of the
MC Residences site, and she suggested that it could be moved back to in front of the parking deck, with
some space along the eastern side of Orange Road retained for ten-minute drop-off parking. Lieutenant
Egnezzo also said that parking for the block could be conceivably be allowed on Orange Road’s western
side all the way down to Hillside School, explaining that even with a relocated bus stop, there should be no reason to prohibit parking on either side. She was, however, against a drop-off lane protruding into
the sidewalk space in front of MC Residences as shown in the rendering, saying that a drop-off area on
Orange Road as it exists would be an ideal traffic-calming device.

Finally, engineer Kevin Webb testified on the loading area for MC Residences along Centroverde Drive
and on the drainage. The plans have been revised to show a yellow stripe in front of the post-curb line
on the northern side of the drive. Webb said he didn’t want to duplicate the striping on the southern
side because he was afraid it would be perceived by motorists as too narrow, but he was open to the
best judgment from fire officials and other engineers to make sure it meets conditions of approval. Vice
Chair Keith Brodock asked about an infiltration trench on Orange Road shown on the plans, and Webb
explained that it was taken out. There is still an infiltration trench on Centroverde Drive for the roof
leader, but the one on Orange Road would be replaced with a solid-wall pipe.

The application for MC Residences, fraught with difficulties since the dispute over the wording of the
redevelopment, is not over yet. Planning Director Janice Talley said that hearings for it would resume on
March 9.