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Mayor Talks Parking Around CentroVerde Development

He says: "We have to get over our culture's obsession with having parking exactly where you want to go."

 

A parking consultant hired by those who would like to develop CentroVerde, a complex of three six-story buildings to be built in Montclair's Central Business District, sought to reassure the municipal Planning Board on Tuesday night that the proposed development would have more than enough parking, according to the Montclair Times.

The newspaper said that Tom Calu, the interim executive director of the Montclair Parking Authority, spoke on behalf of Montclair Acquisition Partners (MAP), the company seeking to build the massive project on a 3.3-acre lot where there are now vacant Bloomfield Avenue car dealerships, between Valley and Orange roads.

Calu had been retained by MAP, composed of the Montclair-based Pinnacle Companies that developed The Siena and DCH Auto Group, to lay out a plan for how shared parking would work within the Orange Road Parking Deck, which will serve CentroVerde.

When asked about the presentation at Tuesday night's meeting, Mayor Jerry Fried said that the shared-parking arrangement, "zip cars", and mixed uses for the site would maximize the parking capacity throughout the week.

Also, he added, the 78 "township spots" which are now part of the original land-lease for the deck give plenty of wiggle room, since now only 30 to 40 cars use the deck and only during normal business hours at the Board of Education and the Montclair Community Pre-K.

"The only concern is for the very few times during the year when there is peak demand because of special events, and I am convinced that you should never build enough parking to have spots exactly when and where people would like to have them," Fried said.

He said one thing not mentioned Tuesday night is that the Crescent Deck has only reached full capacity three or four times during the years it has been in operation, and only for an hour or so.

"We spent literally months 3 1/2 years ago trying to plan for parking issues that would be created by the Wellmont, including arranging a parking contract with the owners of the DCH site for Wellmont parking," Fried said. "It was totally unnecessary ... the 'free market' (mostly Stephen Plofker selling his parking spaces at a premium price) worked, and those looking for a bargain parked in legal spots a few blocks away.

"We have to get over our culture's obsession with having parking exactly where you want to go," he added. "Every place you really want to go (like places you go on vacation) is a place where it's nice to walk from where you leave your car, or where you can use public transportation."

For more information on the project and the parking issues go here.

Stuart Weissman May 30, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Someone needs to tell Jerry that Montclair is not Seattle or Portland. There is a reason that there are huge vacancies along the Avenue. Perhaps the average person does not share in Jerry's utopian view of a bicycle-centric planet?
Selma Avdicevic May 30, 2012 at 01:19 PM
The problem with the Mayor's premise is that most people that visit Wellmont and other venues around town, including our restaurants, come from somewhere else, as in other towns, and they need to get on a highway to get to Montclair. So, no bikes for them. The public transportation service is bad, at best. Those of that tried it, know first hand. In addition, people like to park close to where they are going to spend the evening. Are we now tell our visitors we have a different philosophy on parking then the rest of NJ? Because, you know, they might stop coming. What nobody seems to be talking about is the traffic jam created at drop off and pick up times at MCPK and Hillside (both of which "feed" into Orange Rd). It is not pretty out there. Is anybody going to address that?
roscoe May 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I've been to the crescent deck three times when there was no parking. If it's true that there have only been three instances when parking was full, it seems wildly coincidental that I happened to be there for those three slivers of time. I don't know anything about the interim director of the PA, but if he was chosen by the development group for Centro Verde this seems like a conflict of interest. I hope the permanent position is filled very carefully, with someone who has the right experience and knowledge.
Stuart Weissman May 30, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I noticed the conflict of interest too Roscoe. I also have witnessed the South Fullerton Deck (YMCA) deck at max capacity many times over the years. Before dining on Bloomfield Avenue, I always check the Wellmont schedule to see if there is a show. If there is, I dine in Bloomfield, where there is parking available within a reasonable walking distance to the restaurant.
Paine May 30, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Parking consultant Tom Calu has been working for Pinnacle's Brian Stolar for nearly 10 years. Either Calu agrees with everything Stolar wants to do, for a fee, or Stolar does everything Calu recommends. Which is the case?
Paine May 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Will there be less parking when the assisted living project takes away the Church Street parking lot?
Peter Simon May 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I've never had a problem with parking in Montclair Center. Never been turned away from the Crescent when I've wanted to park there. Parked in a legal and free spot not more than two blocks from the Wellmont for a recent sold-out concert. Always able to place my car in the general vicinity of the business I was intending to visit. Honestly, this complaining about parking makes the complainers sound like ninnies. Especially in the context of the larger area in which we live (i.e., the NYC metro).
Stuart Weissman May 30, 2012 at 05:03 PM
"Parked in a legal and free spot not more than two blocks from the Wellmont for a recent sold-out concert." Did Jerry give you a ride on his handlebars to the show?
Townie May 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I agree. In-town parking is not such a big deal for those willing to walk as far as they happily walk from the mall parking lot to their destination store.
Sanford May 30, 2012 at 06:02 PM
If the mayor's bicycle ordinance passes, there will be a requirement for bicycle spaces and lockers. These will significantly reduce the number of parking spaces for cars.
Peter Simon May 31, 2012 at 02:08 AM
But seriously, what is the problem? It's insanely unproblematic to park in this town. To argue otherwise says a lot more about the person complaining than about the supposed "problem".
montclairgurl May 31, 2012 at 11:24 AM
There is something wrong when the head of the MPA is working on behalf of a developer. And this council doesn't appear to rely upon outside sources to review major developments but rather accepts the information given to them by the very people who stand to profit from the ideas they put forward. I think we have a major issue with public transportation here. I try to bike and walk around town as much as possible, but It's not practical in the winter or in inclement weather. Most families aren't going to bike to Raymond's in the winter. Or walk if they live more than a mile away - and the town is six miles long. And it's somewhat disingenuous for the Mayor to talk about using public transportation when those of use who have to commute have a daily choice of either DeCamp and traffic or NJT which has cut service significantly over the past few years. We have a town that has 6 train stations and it would be great to see someone advocate for commuters and good weekday service rather than just focus on the transportation needs of the small segment of Montclair that lives near downtown.
CMFAS55 May 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM
If i am going out to dinner in Montclair Center i will deal with finding a parking spot and understand that it is a pain sometimes, but that's the deal. The dinner will be a couple of hours or more so the time is worth it to me. However, if i need to run an errand (and i live about a half mile to mile from our main downtown) I go to West Orange on Prospect Ave and use the store there since parking is way easier and i won't have to deal with parking three blocks from where I need to go. I know it's not supporting local businesses in Montclair but I can't deal with having what should be a quick errand or shopping trip turn into a hassle to find a parking spot and i am not biking back or walking w/ a bunch of stuff.
montclairgurl May 31, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The other question I have about the new development as it relates to parking is the number of parking spaces allocated for tenants. Is it one per tenant, or one per apartment or less or more? It's foolish to think anyone renting an apartment in a suburb is not going to have a car and couple is likely to have two.
thewayitis May 31, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Mayor Fried's remark feels out of touch. It is reasonable for residents and visitors to want to park near where they're going. The mayor assumes everyone is capable of walking. Some people have physical limitations or disabilities. Accessible parking spots are often filled. Pregnant women might have difficulty walking longer distances (again depending on their individual abilities). Parents of young children often prefer to park closer to where they need to go. Elderly people as well. I've learned to allow 15 mins extra to have time to park wherever I go in town. From the 4th ward its necessary to drive to get to the town centers. I wish the town would consider the already existing lack of parking. Any new development should be considered thoughtfully and creating sufficient parking should be part of that equation. Biking is not an option for some people for a variety of reasons. I wish the town would think about the existing infrastructure and current demands being placed on it. Please listen to what residents are saying about their experiences and make things better. I believe its possible to have a greener environmentally aware place with bike paths, bike racks, pedestrian walkways, etc. AND it's also a place where people need to drive their cars and park them safely and legally. To support local businesses, there needs to be sufficient parking. Otherwise, people will make the choice to go elsewhere for services where parking is less of a hassle.
Townie May 31, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I'll stick to my statement that parking downtown is not such a hassle, for me. I'll also agree with CMFAS55's comment that quick errands can be easier elsewhere than downtown, with montclairgurl that Tom Calu should probably not be in-line to run the MPA and with thewayitis that persons with disabilities face great difficulties with access. I'll further add that more development = more cars and that this could make a reasonable parking situation less reasonable. It is important that new development have a reasonable allocation of on-site parking, guided by township ordinances. Plus within a short distance of this proposed development are parking lots with daytime use only (Hillside School, the new offices across from Hillside School in the renovated church, Whole Foods). There are online businesses popping up to facilitate sharing these types of spots: http://www.parkatmyhouse.com, http://www.parkingspots.com
Peter Simon May 31, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Whatever, DZ. CMFAS55 makes a distinction between places where you're doing an "errand" and places such as restaurants where you're likely to stay for awhile. That's a meaningful distinction, and it suggests that downtowns such as Montclair's Bloomfield-Ave corridor are perhaps best filled with tenants that are 'destinations' of one sort or another (restaurants, theaters, galleries, coffeeshops, antique shops, bookshops, bars, live-music venues, etc.) rather than with traditional retail tenants, who must compete with big-box, shopping-mall, and online alternatives. The 'problem' with parking isn't felt to be a big problem when, as CMFAS55 says, you've decided to go to a restaurant (or a show, or a reading, or for some antiquing / gallery-hopping, or to hear a band). It's (arguably) a problem when you need a gallon of milk, some shampoo, and disposable diapers for the kids.
CMFAS55 June 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Peter said: "it suggests that downtowns ... are perhaps best filled with tenants that are 'destinations' of one sort or another (restaurants, theaters, galleries, coffeeshops, antique shops, bookshops, bars, live-music venues, etc.) rather than with traditional retail tenants" That sounds good except for the liklihood that an economic downturn will hurt this type of destination where people are spending discretionary income on leisure activities more severely than it will a downtown that has more recession proof businesses. I think that our downtown needs more office space rather than restaurants and the powers that be need to figure out how to bring in businesses with white collar workers to town. Having strong non-retail, non-leisure time business would be nice but parking for the employees is important. Restaurants come and go too frequently and have trouble with our rents and taxes. If you have strong businesses in downtown, people will head out and support restaurants during the week and residents will support them on the weekends.
frank rubacky June 01, 2012 at 02:27 PM
CMFAS55, You're right, but downtown was like this before and we slowly zoned it out for reasons of property speculation and status. Now we are trying to put some of it back in under the guise of the 'Smart Growth' Trinity - all new redevelopments have to each include retail/office/residential. ( Note: be wary of the term SmartGrowth as it takes the current positive connotation of 'growth and adds 'smart' to double the goody-goody flavor and its tenents beyond reproach. ) MPA and Mr Stolar have been sharing the same parking consultant for years and I see no problem appointing the consultant as the Director of the MPA. I also don't see a problem appointing Mr Stolar to the Board of Adjustment. Actually, I don't see Montclair having any problems. Master Plan? We don't need no Master Plan! Write one if you want, but think SmartGrowth is all we need.

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