Residential Towers in Montclair Place Plan a Blueprint for Future?
The Montclair City Council approved a plan to transform Montclair Place into a 104-acre mixed-use district encompassing roughly 5 million square feet of residential space that would create a new downtown for Montclair. The plan includes up to 6,312 units of apartments, homes and high-rise condos, with residential towers rising as tall as 20 stories.
The revitalization of the district along the 10 freeway between Monte Vista Avenue and Central Avenue will occur over the next couple of decades, commencing with CIM’s 75-acre, 1.2-million-square-foot mall. That will involve demolition of the enclosed mall’s interior and new plans for the vacant Sears and Nordstrom department stores.
The 6,000+ housing units envisioned by the plan are a major change. These would consist of a combination of apartments, homes and high-rise condos, which could bring significant growth to the city of 39,437 people. Also, the plan calls for adding 512,000 square feet of commercial space and a 100- to 200-room hotel.
Adopted unanimously by the City Council in September, the plan for the high-concept mixed-use design would create a new downtown for Montclair whose main feature is a street, or Rambla, with a large tree-lined median with angled parking for pop-up restaurants, stores and a farmers market, patterned after a street in Barcelona, Spain.
The Rambla would be located north of the mall and connect Fremont Avenue and San Jose Street. It would be flanked by mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and residential on the upper floors, according to the plan.
On the western side would be row houses, residential blocks and neighborhood parks and a grand median connecting Monte Vista Avenue to the Rambla and the existing Montclair TransCenter, just north of Arrow Highway.
At the area occupied by the mall, called the District Center, the plan calls for residential buildings between five and 20 stories in height. Retail buildings and entertainment uses on the ground floor “will eventually replace those of the Montclair Place Mall,” the plan states. Large parking structures would create one-stop parking allowing visitors to park, then walk to shop, eat or watch a movie.
Transforming Parking Lots Into Office Buildings
As a final phase, the plan calls for transforming surface parking lots into office, research and development buildings, within the District Place to be located in the southern section.
“Many years from now, we will be enjoying one of the great downtowns in Southern California,” said Stefanos Polyzoides, principal with Moule & Polyzoides, an architecture and urban planning firm based in Pasadena that designed the plan.
He compared the new Montclair downtown and mall to Old Pasadena, downtown Beverly Hills and The Grove in Los Angeles, which combine outdoor shopping and eateries with residential development in a pedestrian-friendly space.
The owner of the 1.2 million-square-foot mall, CIM Group, has worked on the plan with the urban planning firm and City Hall.
“It has become apparent now more than ever to address the changing nature of retail and to reinvent the mall long term,” said John Prystasz, associate for development with CIM, “while also addressing the housing shortage we are facing in California.”
The plan creates a blueprint for developers. However, it will take at least 20 years to fulfill, said City Manager Ed Starr. Polyzoides added that getting developers to propose new buildings will be tough because there are many different landowners, but will “start with land owned by CIM,” he said.
Connecting to Montclair TransCenter
A key component is building a connection to the Montclair TransCenter, where buses and Metrolink trains connect to San Bernardino and Riverside as well as the San Gabriel Valley. But the plan mentions the importance of a light-rail connection at the train station, namely the “L” Line (former Gold Line), which stretches from Los Angeles to Pasadena and soon to Pomona, but lacks $550 million to reach Claremont and Montclair.
“The Gold Line will be essential,” said Montclair Councilman Bill Ruh, who’s also CVAR’s Director of Government Affairs. “It is the only way we will get the growth we need in that area.”
Montclair Place started as the Montclair Plaza in 1968, with The Broadway, May Co. and J.C. Penney Co. as anchors. Today, only the latter remains. It was the first mall in the Inland Empire and put the city on the map, Ruh said.
“People will feel sentimental about the Montclair Place not existing in the way they are used to,” Councilwoman Corysa Martinez said.
But overhauling the mall is necessary for its future and the city’s financial health, according to Mayor John Dutrey. He said the project will be a first-of-its-kind for the Inland Empire.
The Montclair City Council is planning 20 years ahead, and a transformed Montclair Place is key to its vision.