The former home of American National Bank in Montclair is being converted into a mixed-use commercial space. Vacant for the past five years, the three-story limestone building at 475 Bloomfield Avenue is being redeveloped by a company named SAF 475 Bloomfield, LLC, an affiliate of Saxum Real Estate. Their application was recently approved by the zoning board of adjustment for two setback variances, necessary to construct a rear exit to comply with the local building code.
“It’s a challenging building, these big, old bank buildings with big vaulted entries and double-height ceilings and ornate detail,” said David Genova, founding principal at Greenwood Development, which partnered with Saxum on the project.
The 1914 building, located at the Five Corners in the Bloomfield Avenue Historic District, was designed by Manhattan-based firm York & Sawyer, famous for their early 20th-century bank buildings, such as the Federal Reserve Bank, Central Savings Bank, and the Brooklyn Trust Company Building.
The first floor, Genova said, will eventually house a retailer and offices will be on the second and third floor. Although the developers considered other means of egress that wouldn’t have required a variance, constructing this new rear exit was the “least disruptive to the architecture,” Genova said, which includes the original plasterwork and a skylight.
The conversion of the landmark bank into retail is following a trend that includes the former Bank of Montclair building, built-in 1923, and the Montclair National Bank, built-in 1926, both owned by the Bravitas Group. Modern-day banking operations are ill-suited for these grandiose structures from the past.
The developers of 475 Bloomfield Avenue originally considered overhauling the interior to have more traditional floor plans, but decided on leaving the building with its mezzanines and dramatic skylight intact, Genova said.
“In the end, we felt that that didn’t do service to the beauty of the entryway,” Genova said. “We decided to focus on a retailer who would take that space in its glory.”