Politics can get dirty in Morristown.
Check out our video from Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Speedwell Avenue redevelopment.
Councilman Stefan Armington and Mayor Tim Dougherty usually get along just fine. But on this day…
The comical moment came about 11 years after town officials first contemplated remaking the neighborhoods around Speedwell. Phase One of the four-step project calls for 268 apartments on the town’s former public works site, between Early Street and Atno Avenue.
If all goes smoothly, the first tenants will move into the complex, dubbed “Latitude,” in late summer of 2014, said Rich Murphy, managing director of Mill Creek Residential Trust, the developer.
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“We believe very strongly in Morristown,” he said. “We love the atmosphere in Morristown. We love that our residents can walk on a Sunday morning for a cup of coffee. We love that they can come home and walk to a restaurant.
“When we’re done here, it’s going to be something special. I think it’s going to give a real shot in the arm to this neighborhood,” Rich said.
The moribund economy could not stop the project, a testament to Morristown’s desirability, said Mayor Dougherty.
“Morristown continues to lead the way for the rest of the state,” he said.
Latitude will include 26 deed-restricted affordable units. Plans also call for a game room, fitness center, rooftop deck and shuttle to the train station. The building will be designed for energy efficiency, and kitchens will have granite countertops and stainless steel, energy-saving appliances, according to the developer.
Most of the apartments will have one- or two bedrooms. Previously, Rich estimated rents ranging from around $1,800 to $2,600 a month. Prospect Street is scheduled to be extended through the property next spring, linking to Early Street.
Mill Creek, formerly part of Trammell Crow, closed last Christmas Eve on the $3.5 million purchase of the municipal land. Demolition of existing structures started in January, and a cleanup of oily soil was completed recently. The town agreed to pay up to $500,000 for the remediation.
Over the next two months, paving will commence for a 357-space parking garage; framing for the structure should follow in August, Rich said.
The Mayor credited Jonathan Rose Companies, the planning firm he hired soon after taking office, with getting the long-awaited project moving.
But the happiest guy at Tuesday’s ceremony may have been architect Dean Marchetto, who scrutinized facades elsewhere in Morristown and hopes to replicate the same feel with brickwork in his Latitude design. A park will be centrally located, with building exteriors serving as walls framing the green space, he added.
“For architects, we dream of these things,” Dean said of the groundbreaking. “We draw on paper. But when it finally takes shape, it’s very special.”
About a year from now, Mill Creek expects to break ground on Phase Two of the project. Another 200 apartments will go up next to Phase One, on the site of the ambulance squad headquarters.
Presumably, the ceremonial shovels will be distributed much more selectively.