It’s All Square: Inside Montclair’s LEED Gold Academy Square Development

A school building for 104 years, Montclair’s Academy Square is now a green commercial building with an artistic bent and a bright future. File under: Jersey Pride, Good News.

Montclair, New Jersey, is more or less the Jersey town in which I wish I’d grown up. With all due respect to Ridgewood, NJ — and I’m not going to get into just how much respect is due, there — Montclair has better movie theaters, better restaurants and a closer connection to late New Orleans Saints linebacker Sam Mills. With the recent LEED Gold certification of Academy Square — which will enjoy its grand opening this Friday, September 24 — Montclair now has at least two more green building success stories than does Ridgewood. Academy Square joins GreenWorks on Grove in the ranks of super-green Montclair commercial space. But while Academy Square shares adaptive reuse status with GreenWorks — and also shares co-developer Bob Silver — the size, scope and age of the building that was the subject of said adaptive reuse sets it apart. Ridgewood, however, is the birthplace of two of the internet’s leading green building advocates — between that and the annual summer Del Percio Days Festival celebrating Stephen’s contribution to the community, I’d call it just about even between the two towns.

Or… no, I wouldn’t. Because, as Elizabeth Oguss of The Montclair Times reports, Academy Square is one of the greatest green building success stories in the Garden State — a 106-year-old school building at 33 Plymouth Street in Montclair that went from serious disrepair to LEED Gold success thanks to an ambitious adaptive reuse retrofit overseen by Montclair’s Sionas Architecture. Teachers lounges became office spaces, classrooms became conference rooms… um, that doesn’t quite make it sound as cool as it actually is. Here, let’s let Oguss try it.

“Architect Paul Sionas reused most of the floors, walls, and roof, and other materials. Salvage from classrooms was used throughout as reminders of the site’s educational heritage,” Oguss writes. “Nameplates for the businesses and offices are set off by squares of original blackboard. Historical photos on the walls are in frames made of the rafters, which were themselves originally packing crates. You can still see the stenciled addresses. The building’s history as a place for women is reflected in a charming photo tribute to the mothers of the owners and tenants in the lobby… Carpets are chemical-free, the windows let in light but reduce heat loss, sensors turn lights on and off as needed, and everything that could be recycled was recycled.”

Yes, much better, thank you. Obviously, if you could write up a gbNYC-Approved Jersey Pride Green Building Event, it would involve basically all of these elements — including the ongoing collaboration with Studio Montclair that will ensure that the hallways of Academy Square will be lined with local art. It might be in Ridgewood, if we were really pushing it, but all we can do with this one is tip our caps to developers Bob Silver and Jay Schweppe and everyone behind Academy Square. A super-green adaptive reuse project like Academy Square would be easy to cheer anywhere, but when it’s in Jersey, it’s that much sweeter.

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One Response to It’s All Square: Inside Montclair’s LEED Gold Academy Square Development

  1. Stephen Del Percio Monday, September 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Nice work staying on top of what’s happening in Montclair, Dave, the GreenWorks on Grove project was one of my favorites that we covered here at gbNYC last year. Just a quick correction re: Ridgewood; Pizza Fusion on Godwin Avenue was actually slated to become New Jersey’s first LEED-certified restaurant; we didn’t follow up on the story, so I’m not sure whether formal certification ever came down, but the pizzeria is still open (drove past it yesterday, actually). Here’s the original article for reference purposes: