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Montclair Planning Board Approves the MC Hotel in a Unanimous Historic Decision

Natalie Heard Hackett

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 • 1:30am

MONTCLAIR, NJ - In a historic decision Monday night, the Montclair planning board unanimously voted to approve the MC hotel.  In what looked like wasn't going to happen when Peg Seip raised last-minute traffic concerns, thus causing a lengthy discussion to ensue, the board then unanimously decided to approve the MC Hotel.

During the Monday night meeting of the Planning Board that extended beyond midnight, the board approved the site plan application for the 148-room MC Hotel.  The MC Hotel will also have associated office and restaurant uses.  

The 120,000 square foot, eight-story boutique hotel will have 148 rooms and suites. Features will include a covered porte-cochere entryway with valet parking, a lobby library, a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant, event space, meeting rooms and fitness center. An express elevator will take public visitors up to a rooftop bar offering views of Manhattan to the east and the Eagle Rock Reservation to the west. 

Application 2374 was submitted by HP Orange 2013 Urban Renewal, LLC (Block 1404, Lot 1.01) to build a 148-room hotel. 

The August 11 hearing was a continuation on the public hearing from July 14th and July 26.  The new presentation of the plan was not met with as much resistance as it has had in past meetings.  During the July 26 meeting, it was decided that a subcommittee would be formed  to offer feedback to the applicant.  The subcommittee included a few members of the planning Board, past and present members of the historical preservation commission (HPC), and the applicant's design team.  Martin Schwartz chaired the subcommittee.

The goals of the subcommittee were as follows:

·                     To design a building that reinforces the eclectic and historic sense of place in Montclair Center which now harmonizes with its scale and character.

·                     Provide signature gateway architectural features to create visual interest frame the street and instill a sense of arrival in Montclair Center for visitors.

·                     Create an inviting an attractive pedestrian-oriented atmosphere at the sidewalk level that seamlessly connects to Montclair Center.

·                     Enhance the public realm by providing an attractive and welcoming pedestrian environment that includes feeding areas, public art opportunities and active ground floor uses.

·                     Ensure the project is compatible with the neighborhood fabric.

Some of the changes made to the original design were with the committee’s input, thus causing the applicant to swiftly move through his presentation to the Planning Board:

Six key areas had received the most scrutiny and revision in working with the planning board’s subcommittee and development team:

1.  Developing a more contextual and compelling corner element.

2.  Establishing a stronger connection  to the regular rhythm of existing structures.

3.  Integrating horizontal ordering devices found on the older buildings in order to breakdown the mass of the hotel.

4.  Strengthening the character of the three points of entry, at Bloomfield Avenue, the corner tower, and Orange Rd. porte cochere.

5.  Addressing the apparent bulk of the uppermost stucco surfaces.

The applicant explained that the outcome of the new design is more respectful of Montclair's historical context and reflects a more sophisticated blending of the old and the new.  The color scheme of the building was altered to make it blend more with the existing landscape.  It is described as a modern building that embraces the form and finishes found in many of Montclair's historic downtown buildings.

The applicant is no stranger to Montclair development, as the Pinnacle Companies, LLC worked with the Township of Montclair to create the Montclair Center Gateway Redevelopment Plan, known as Centro Verde, which includes The MC and the mixed-use Valley & Bloom project, which Pinnacle is developing in a joint venture with LCOR.  A privately held regional real estate development firm, Pinnacle is based in Montclair, NJ, where the firm has developed the Siena mixed-use building on the site of the former Hahne& Co. department store.

“We worked closely with the Montclair Planning Board, the Historic Preservation Committee, Township of Montclair planning and zoning staff, as well as other town leaders to make the hotel and surrounding development a true community meeting place,” said Brian Stolar, President and CEO of The Pinnacle Companies. 

Subcommittee chairman Schwartz said, "This is an excellent example of what can go right and what can go wrong."

Synopsis of the Highlights of the new design include:

·                     Revised the corner feature to blend in with the industrial age buildings in the area.

·                     Established a visual continuity with pre-existing buildings that includes more dramatic cornices.

·                     Modified the entire base of the hotel so that it features more consistent structural days and storefronts at the street level, dust making it similar to the surrounding buildings.

·                     Added a special finish to the three entries, especially at Bloomfield Avenue and orange rd.

·                     Modified the south side elevation with horizontal binging, the introduction of Windows, and the opening of public be at the base.  A mesh mural of the opening will further breakdown the façade.

·                     Added bands of glass of the upper stories.

The new design was met with minimal resistance from Planning Board and community members alike since much of the kinks were worked out in the subcommittee meeting. Planning Board member Carole Willis added, "Montclair needs a good anchor building. …I do welcome it and wish it much success."

Peg Seip raised concerns regarding traffic at the end of the presentation and a lengthy discussion ensued, thus taking the meeting beyond midnight.  Planning Director Janice Talley suggested requiring the applicant to submit quarterly reports for the first two years so that the township can monitor traffic and parking issues that may arise.

It was decided that the application would be approved under certain design conditions that would be worked out with the design committee. 

The design committee would discuss the scale of the façade detail, corner treatment, materials used and the like.

The applicant, HP Orange 2013 Urban Renewal, LLC, is also known as the Pinnacle Companies.  “We are thrilled that the Montclair Planning Board has unanimously voted in favor of The MC Hotel, which will be the Township’s first new full-service hotel since the Hotel Montclair, which closed in 1938,” continued Stolar.   “It’s a huge accomplishment for Montclair to attract a  Autograph Collection property,a brand for which Marriott seeks out high quality designs in the most desirable locations, even on a global basis.”

The design includes a public plaza and two-story public atrium on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Orange Road.  “The combined activity created by the building will extend Montclair’s business center further west, increasing the Township’s economic vitality,” added Stolar.

The MC Hotel has been supported by the Montclair Jazz Festival organizers, Montclair Art Museum officials, and Montclair State University leadership, who have expressed that it is a welcome addition.

Councilor-At-Large Rich McMahon said, "I think this will prove to be historic day for Montclair."

The hotel will be located at the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Orange Road on the western end of Montclair’s central business district.  The project also includes 13,000 square feet of corporate offices, conference and meeting room space. Groundbreaking for The MC is anticipated during the fourth quarter of 2014 and construction will take approximately 15 months. The hotel is expected to open in early 2016.

For pictures of the updated MC Hotel plans, click here.

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