A rendering of a new 28,509-square-foot Lidl grocery store on Bloomfield Avenue, part of a mixed-use redevelopment of Montclair’s Lackawanna Plaza by The Hampshire Cos. and Pinnacle Cos. — Courtesy: Hampshire/Pinnacle
By Joshua Burd
Local officials have cleared the way for a joint venture to restore and reposition a century-old train station and retail plaza in Montclair, where the firms now hope to deliver more than 200,000 square feet of new commercial and residential space.
The developers, The Hampshire Cos. and Pinnacle Cos., announced Monday that they’ve received approvals to move ahead with the redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza. With construction slated to begin this year, the project will include a new 28,509-square-foot Lidl grocery store on Bloomfield Avenue that will anchor the site, along with 153 residential units that are slated for the east side of the site along Grove Street.
The joint venture hopes to breathe new life into a property that was originally built in 1913 as a stop on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and operated until 1981, according to a news release. Following its closure as a transit hub, the buildings comprising Lackawanna Plaza housed a Pathmark and several other retail tenants that ultimately became vacant.
Since the Pathmark closed in 2015, Montclair has been left without a centrally located grocery store, the firms said, while the plaza has sat mostly empty.
“It is rare for a developer to be given a chance to breathe a second life into a site that holds such a special place in a town’s history,” said Robert T. Schmitt, a principal at Morristown-based Hampshire. “We would like to thank Mayor Jackson and Montclair’s municipal leadership for their collaboration and consultation in helping us craft a plan that will truly respond to the needs of the surrounding community.”
“We look forward to executing our redevelopment plan for Lackawanna Plaza to bring valuable community amenities and rateables to Montclair while preserving the aspects of the site that have made it so important to Montclair for over a century.”
In addition to Lidl, the redevelopment plan calls for 35,714 square feet of retail space and 21,032 square feet of office space, according to a news release. In an effort to honor the history of the plaza, the developers are taking major steps to preserve or replicate a significant portion of the station’s original 1913 Grecian Doric style, including salvaging 21 existing steel columns from the train platform for usage on the building’s façade.
The firms also expect to integrate train platform canopies into the roof of Lidl, restore the property’s iconic horse trough, preserve the historic waiting room and concourse and create a memory board and plaque at the entrance of the plaza to highlight the history of the site.
The project will follow another recent investment in Montclair by the joint venture, a 159-room MC Hotel that will open this spring and bring the town its first new full-service hotel since 1938. At the township’s border with Glen Ridge, Hampshire is also leading efforts to build a new 45,735-square-foot medical office building across from Mountainside Medical Center, which is slated to open in early 2020 and is fully preleased by Hackensack Meridian Health.
“For many years, Hampshire has adhered to an organizational focus on creating projects that bring sustainable, transformative change to local communities,” said James E. Hanson II, Hampshire’s CEO and president. “We have long understood that a truly successful real estate investment is not reflected solely on balance sheets but how it responds to the needs of the community and those living within it. Our investment in Montclair is emblematic of this focus and will help bring important spaces to one of New Jersey’s most dynamic towns.”