Speedwell Avenue facelift may include arts projects, along with ‘Safer Routes to School,’ according to Morristown officials

The transformation of Speedwell Avenue, destined for major redevelopment this year, is poised for more changes from a pair of grants.

A $120,000 “Safe Routes to School” grant from the state Department of Transportation should make it safer for kids to walk to the Sussex Avenue School from the Speedwell area, Morristown Councilman Stefan Armington said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

This former Lincoln Mercury car dealership would be razed to make way for a CVS pharmacy, if the town council approves the redevelopment plan. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

FACE-LIFT: This former Lincoln Mercury car dealership soon will give way to a CVS pharmacy. Morristown seeks federal arts funding to make the Speedwell neighborhood more appealing. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

And the town is applying for $125,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund art projects to spruce up Speedwell Avenue.

“This is a great big opportunity to transform Speedwell at one shot, and give it its own unique flavor, because the neighborhood deserves it,” said Phil Abramson, from the town planning firm, Jonathan Rose Companies.

Construction of a 268-apartment complex and a CVS pharmacy are planned this year as part of a Speedwell redevelopment plan that percolated for about a decade.

The Safe Routes to School grant will reconfigure the intersection of Sussex Avenue and Lake Road to create a right angle that will be safer to cross, Stefan said.

Crosswalks will be raised along Cutler and Walker avenues and speed humps may be added, to ensure that cars stop for children, he said. The councilman anticipates the work will be completed by summer.

Morristown’s Safe Routes request was one of 25 applications, out of 151 requests statewide, to receive federal funding this year, Gov. Chris Christie said in a letter to Mayor Tim Dougherty.


The  “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts would create a juried contest to award stipends to five or 10 artists for streetscape projects and public art. The public would vote on how to allocate some of the funds, Phil Abramson said.

Half the money is intended for grass-roots research, to determine what improvements local businesses want to see. Do they need better sidewalks?  Snappier windows?  Art projects should respond to those needs, Phil said.

The town has consulted with Morris Arts (formerly the Arts Council of the Morris Area), the Morristown Neighborhood House, Marty’s Reliable Cycle and other Speedwell businesses, the town Sustainability office, and a Newark organization called Local Initiatives Supporting Communities, the planner said.

It’s all part of what the NEA calls “creative placemaking”: Using the arts and smart design to make communities “more livable with enhanced quality of life, increased creative activity, a distinct sense of place, and vibrant local economies that together capitalize on their existing assets.”

“I’m really excited about this,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman. “It would be a great model for the whole state.”


In other news from the council meeting…

Rebecca cast the only vote against allowing George & Martha’s American Grill to serve liquor in a tent on March 9, the day of the 2013 Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade.  The parade is a family event, the councilwoman said, and revelers can slake their thirst at plenty of indoor bars…

Now let’s fast-forward by a few holidays. Morristown’s July 4 fireworks show–the first one here in many years–actually is scheduled for Lewis Morris Park in Morris Township. Safety is the reason, explained the Mayor.

Fort Nonsense, Morristown’s launch pad for First Night fireworks on New Year’s Eve, might pose a fire hazard in summertime when vegetation is dry, he said. But the Morristown Green will host a reading of the Declaration of Independence by a re-enactor from the National Park Service.

“We’re a Revolutionary town, with a lot of Revolutionary history, and Fourth of July should be celebrated here,” the Mayor said.  He estimated the fireworks will cost between $5,000 and $10,000…

Stefan Armington resumed his decade-long battle with noisy leaf blowers by volunteering to head a committee to study the issue.  On too many weekends, the councilman said, the jarring motors awaken him and he must don a bathrobe and chase down the perpetrators.



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  1. Morristown should get rid of that “revolutionary” garbage. It’s old.

  2. Good idea on leaf blowers, but what’s wrong with calling the police? We do have an ordinance.

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