Some Fresh Fish, Please

Remember when the Montclair Village Association (MVA) asked shoppers and merchants how to fill our store vacancies?  Well their results have been tallied, and everyone seems to want a fish monger or great butcher in the Village.  Our desires revolve around all kinds of food, dining and cooler shopping options.

Here are the top shopping desires:

  1. Hardware store – just left, we want and need it back
  2. Bakery – a good one, to augment donuts and bagels
  3. Organic grocery store – pretty please, there’s demand
  4. Butcher/Fish store – good stuff that we’ll pay for
  5. Fun restaurant with music – some hang-out for younger folks
  6. Improved Village look and events – a place to be, and spend

It’s not surprising that folks leave the Village to shop for food.  We conducted a everyday food survey years ago, which supported the lack of options here.  Current survey respondents cry out for an organic-type supermarket within spitting distance.  Since Lucky’s and Safeway seem fairly stable, there’s no obvious spot for that Molly Stones, Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Looking over their shoulders at nearby neighborhoods, Montclarions also like the idea of having smaller shops featuring fresh fish, butchers and bakery goods. One respondent hit the nail on the head:  “I think every time I walk through the deserted Montclair Plaza building that it would make a great spot for a Market Hall-type setup, with fresh pasta, seafood, butcher, bakery, produce, etc.”

We all know the Village is pretty set in its ways, which can be a good or bad thing.  “People today want an excuse to hang out and spend time where they shop and can socialize in a trendy setting,” said one Montclarion.  Both the Sunday Farmers Market and new First Thursdays provide some draws, and are a nice start.

The Village should hereby be called the little engine that could.

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Simcity Meets Montclair Village

Who should be occupying retail vacancies in Montclair Village?  Do you want more food, apparel, gifts or specialized services?  We made some fantasy picks a few years ago, and several ideas came true!  Now it’s your time to dream and speak up.

While Montclair Village retailers closed for different reasons, some spots have been vacant for a long time.  We believe that Score Education Center, the Movie Express and Argento Jeweler have been shuttered for well over a year.  Currently, there are nine storefronts to be rented, in these exact locations.

Roger Vickery, Director of the Montclair Village Association, has asked everyone for their thoughts.  You may leave them in the comments here, or email them to Vickery at montclairvillage@sbcglobal.net.

P.S.  Maybe Simcity’s creator could weigh in.  Will Wright lives in our hills, too.

What Montclair Might Look Like

Did you see what Montclair might look like with a renewed streetscape?  Recently the Montclair Village Association (MVA) provided some before-and-after images.

Here are the “after” images with various sidewalk, crosswalk and banner concepts superimposed on village streets.  Those banners seem to honor our hills and trees, in purple and yellow hues.  Montclair already feels like a friendlier destination!

At the behest of the MVA, landscape architect Leslie Golden was brought into the planning process early.  Her firm has done all kinds of streetscapes and parks, which reflect the sense of place.  You know that island and palm entrance to the Oakland Airport?  That’s Golden Associates at work.

Anyway, the MVA held initial meetings where Golden was able to solicit ideas from merchants and villagers alike.  She asked what kinds of improvements were desired, and then shared preliminary ideas for our consumption.  The plans were not getting dictated or handed down to us.

A few weeks back, I wondered what would happen next and how improvements might get funded – which was putting the cart before the horse.  We’re not quite ready yet.

“Having a Master Plan to work towards is needed before any funding can be solicited,” explained Roger Vickery, MVA executive director.  The Association is trying to establish a long-term vision, with improvements rolled out over several years.

The MVA is requesting your reactions to the preliminary plans now.  Everything is up for review, right down to Village logos shown on their site.  Please email them at montclairvillage-at-sbcglobal.net.

Private Funds Only Way To Fix Village

Well, I feel like we were led astray about Montclair Village improvements.   Last week, Montclarions were invited to a special meeting where they could react to the landscape architect’s ideas.

Everyone seemed excited and reacted positively to Leslie Golden’s plans.  That’s all well and good, but there’s no path forward right now.  These plans are simply pipe dreams!

Oakland helped to fund the planning process.  Now it’s up to Montclair residents and businesses to cough up around $1 million, if we want to fix the Village’s public spaces.

Our only hope is that Bella, Montclair’s dog mayor, starts begging for dollars during the Sunday Farmers’ market.  Perhaps she would succeed, much like this Portland (OR) dog at his own Saturday market.

Otherwise, the Montclarion reported that financing hasn’t been secured at all.  There’s a slight possibility that some CalTrans funding would be forthcoming, said Richard Cowan, chief of staff to City Rep Jean Quan.  However those resources seem unlikely in the short term.

If we really want things to happen, then a Village campaign should be launched.  We’ll put our dog mayor and other residents to work – extending the hat and knocking on local doors.

Speak Up About Montclair’s Public Spaces

Streetscape planning for Montclair Village takes another step forward on Thursday evening at 6:30pm, when Montclarions are invited to share their opinions about beautification efforts.  Maybe more than a few benches, like those outside Starbucks?

The meeting takes place on Thursday, from 6:30pm – 8:30pm, down at the Zion Lutheran Church, 5201 Park Blvd (map).  You’ll have an opportunity to learn about and discuss public spaces in the Village.

Last June, the first public meeting was held to set priorities for a landscape architect creating the master plan.  At that time, dining, crosswalks, benches, public art, furniture and safety were identified as priorities.

Since then, architect Leslie Brown has developed plans at the behest of the Montclair Village Association and Montclair Safety & Improvement Council.  When these are finalized, the next step will be to obtain necessary approvals and funding as well.

As the process lumbers on, Villagers are asked to contribute to the plans – so speak up now.

Make Montclair Village Shine

We are a vocal bunch about ways to improve the Montclair Village streetscape – but our voices are merely mumbles among friends and neighbors. Now we’re getting organized.

Tonight there’s a joint meeting between the Montclair Village Association (MVA) and Montclair Safety & Improvement Council (MSIC), to bring “shoppers and merchants together to brainstorm ways to improve the look and ambiance of the Village.”

The meeting takes place at Zion Lutheran Church (5201 Park Blvd, map), at 6:30 pm tonight. If you can’t attend, then send ideas to MVA Executive Director, Roger Vickery: MontclairVillage@sbcglobal.net.

MVA and MSIC want to consider everything that beautifies the town. Some of the topics include views, traffic flows, intersections, signs, benches, and other forms of spit-shine.

I think its safe to say that we need better “hang out” space. I like the idea of pedestrian areas without cars, but I’m sure there are opponents. Anyway, let’s see what we can develop collectively.

After ideas are gathered, a landscape architect will prepare drawings and costs and share them publicly. A master plan will be finalized – to trigger the funding, permits and actual improvements.

What are your hot buttons? How would you improve the Village? Please comment here, thanks.