A decade after Montclair officials designated parts of downtown as areas in need of redevelopment and created a master plan to change the face of Bloomfield Avenue, the 3.25-acre, $ 135 million Wellmont Arts complex, the final phase of this plan, is completed.
The historic Wellmont Theater, now a concert hall, is the centerpiece of the development. The brick facade of the theater and Pharmacy Bar building at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue matches the new construction next door at 1 Seymour Street. The seven-story building, with its top two floors dedicated to Summit Health, has a parking garage underneath for use by the public and the medical center which will also serve patients, accessible from the South Fullerton municipal land.
Across from Place du Wellmont, on the former site of the Social Security building and an STS tire store, is another new building. It contains a luxury rental building with 200 apartments, Two South Willow; the Gravity Vault climbing and fitness room; and One River School, an Englewood-based art school with a studio. The rest of the building is reserved for artists and arts organizations.
According to developer Ironstate of Hoboken, the apartments at Two South Willow, completed in March, are 90% let.
The commercial component of the development includes 30,000 square feet; the reserve for arts organizations is 10,000 square feet.
Seymour Street, a former side street across from the Wellmont, is now a 12,000 square foot pedestrian plaza with an outdoor stage, art installations, seating, and greenery.
During the opening festivities of the place des arts on Saturday, officials said they were satisfied with the end result. Martin Schwartz, a member of the planning council when the new complex was approved, said the buildings are aesthetically more pleasing than developments higher up Bloomfield Avenue, such as Valley & Bloom and the MC Hotel.
The completion of the project also comes at a good time for downtown Montclair, which has been devastated by COVID. An empty storefront across from Two Willow Street advertises a soon to be opening crab restaurant.
Not without controversy
The project was not without controversy, however. One of the first concerns was that the focus on the arts was a ploy to make the developer’s large apartment complex more palatable.
In fact, most of the spaces reserved for artists and arts organizations remain empty, with the exception of One River School. And the space designed for an indoor theater is taken up instead by the Englewood-based Gravity Vault, a climbing gym that offers bouldering, yoga, and other fitness activities.
It is an unfortunate byproduct of the pandemic, said Councilor Peter Yacobellis.
“When landlords were looking for tenants in the midst of the pandemic, no one was looking for a theater,” he said. “The pandemic has really hurt the kind of tenants we end up with. “
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But Yacobellis said the requirement that 10,000 square feet be devoted to the arts is not going to go away.
With One River School occupying 1,500 square feet, there is still 8,500 square feet available for artistic use.
“We do not let [the developer] off the hook, ”Yacobellis said.
Eight uses are specified for the arts space, including performing arts, arts and entertainment education, recording and rehearsal, artist studios open to the public, craft industrial studios, art galleries, art, art collectives and museum installations.
Another concern is parking, a perennial problem in the city. According to Schwartz, the number of spaces in the One Seymour St. lot, under Summit Health, is not enough for such a large medical supplier and public parking lot too.
“This project was meant to be an art and entertainment area, and the parking spaces were based on offices and retail,” he said. “Non-medical, which is much more intensive and stains retail users. “
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Although medical is an approved use, board members were thinking in terms of a few small doctors’ offices, not a supplier at Summit’s 40,000-square-foot scale, he said. .
“No one on the Planning Council ever expected this kind of huge pivot,” he said.
Yet during the November 20 ribbon cutting for Summit Health, on a patio overlooking the New York City skyline, council members said staff and patients would bring their money downtown. The facility will be the base of 40 physicians practicing primary care, dermatology, pediatrics, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, ENT and allergy. There is a small surgery center and on-site services like mammography and phlebotomy.
Summit Health CEO Jeff Alter said the group chose Montclair because of its revitalized downtown area.
“In our suburbs, everyone comes home after work,” he said. “A downtown location, where employees can spend time after work and at lunch, is ideal for strengthening the team. “
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He said Summit will continue its long-standing support for Montclair Film and the Montclair Orchestra, and will work with leaders of the economically and racially diverse 4th Quarter, where it is located.
It will also offer mobile health care and work with local pantries and other organizations to identify social determinants of health, such as food insecurity and transportation, he said.
The name of the complex is still under development; with the disappearance of Seymour Street, it is increasingly called Wellmont Arts Plaza rather than the development of Seymour Street.
Yacobellis said he expects an upcoming resolution to officially name the resort and a website to list services, programs, a guide to the art on display and a list of tenants, including others. will be announced shortly. Projectors are installed to display art images on a screen in the parking garage at 1 Seymour Street, and electrical outlets added to the outdoor stage.
Julia Martin is the 2021 recipient of the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists David Carr Award for her coverage of Montclair for NorthJersey.com.
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