By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The owners of a real estate and medical office building on Bloomfield Avenue are hoping to install what would be Montclair’s first operating car-stacking system, after the owners of the Orange Road garage said this year they’d have to remove one that was deemed unsafe before it ever went into use.
Steven Plofker, owner of Seymour Street Associates, said more parking is needed than the 16 spots now offered in the “parking-challenged neighborhood” that surrounds the property at 695 Bloomfield Ave. The owners also lease two off-site spots at the nearby Montclair Art Museum for employees.
The two-car-high stacking system would accommodate 14 cars, making it far smaller than the 116-car system now being dismantled at the Orange Road garage. Conceptual drawings show what appear to be nine more spots across the parking lot, not on lifts, making for 23 spots in all.
Plofker and colleague Kevin Costello approached the Planning Board on July 26 with the concept, trying to get the board’s “feel” on whether members would grant a variance for a stacking system. They presented conceptual plans by ParkPlus, a Florida-based designer and manufacturer of high-density parking systems.
The stacking system would require a variance, as Montclair’s code requires that parking areas and spaces be paved and be accessible from paved aisles.
The property is located at the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue, Bell Street and Orange Road. Parking is hard to come by in the area, as Bell Street only offers parking on one side of the street and is surrounded by Whole Foods, the Bellclair apartments, the MC Hotel and the Montclair Art Museum, along with other retail establishments.
The building, which was home to Luna Stage before it moved to West Orange, currently houses Berkshire Hathaway real estate on the first floor and an OB-GYN and a pediatrician on the second and third floors.
To accommodate parking for the building and to ensure visitors are clients, the owners have retained a valet.
In 2013, the Planning Board approved the addition of the building’s third floor at 3,679 square feet, along with a parking variance. The first and second floors are approximately 4,000 square feet each.
Parking requirements under Montclair zoning require one spot per 150 square feet for the medical offices and one per 250 square feet for the real estate office.
Also in 2013, the Zoning Board permitted a use variance to allow a real estate office on the first floor, which also houses an art gallery.
Costello said the stacking system would allow the owners to expand parking with minimal effects to the property, as the system would be placed in the back, at the western side of the parking lot, and could be surrounded by landscaping.
The parking stackers would measure approximately 8.6 feet by 15.5 feet, with a maximum height of 14 feet with a parked car. The parking lifts would be operated by an onsite attendant and used during regular business hours.
Board member Jeffrey Jacobson voiced a few concerns about parking stacking systems: They are “ugly” and a vehicle could get stuck on the lift after hours, he said.
With Montclair’s parking at a premium, he said, he also worried about “opening the door” for other property owners to begin building them all over Montclair, and then abandoning them years down the road.
Planner Janice Talley said more parking is needed for medical and real estate uses, but Plofker argued that the uses were already permitted and that the previous theater use was a larger parking strain.
Plofker said if the board doesn’t think the stacking system is a good option, the owners can explore others. He said they attempted to approach the owners of Bellclair apartments on Bell Street to explore renting spaces there, but got no response.