Another jam-packed year has flown off the calendar. Morristown’s metamorphosis from a big town to a small city has continued at breakneck speed. The Morris County seat is a destination for people of all ages. Everyone, it seems, wants to live, work or play here.
So it may seem surprising that our choice for Top Story of 2013 is not specifically about Morristown. Rather, it’s a Greater Morristown story.
Honeywell’s decision, after two years of hearings and citizen battles, to move its global headquarters from Morris Township to Morris Plains will have a profound impact on both of Morristown’s neighbors.
The Fortune 100 company aims to move 1,000 employees to a 40-acre site near the VFW hall on Route 53 in the “Community of Caring” in 2015.
“Part of our job is to keep a viable community. Hopefully, this will help. I’m sure it will,” Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler said when Honeywell announced its decision last winter.
While the borough must sort out questions about traffic and peripheral development, Honeywell almost certainly will be a bonanza for lunchtime businesses.
And although the state offered Honeywell hefty tax incentives to stay in New Jersey, Mayor Druetzler is hopeful that local taxpayers will see some benefits from this new neighbor.
Morris Township, meanwhile, must wait and see what comes next for the 147-acre tract that has been Honeywell’s home for more than half a century.
WHAT ARE YOUR PICKS FOR GREATER MORRISTOWN’S TOP STORIES OF 2013?
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RE-DEVELOPMENTS, RE-ELECTIONS, REFORMS
There were plenty of other big stories in our backyard this year.
After more than a decade of talks, Morristown’s Speedwell Avenue redevelopment finally got under way with construction of the Latitude apartment complex. If subsequent redevelopment phases follow, this area bordering the town’s Second and Third Wards will undergo a dramatic transformation.
Along those lines, Morristown planners–with input gleaned from several public meetings–crafted a new zoning master plan intended to guide future growth that respects neighborhoods and promotes cycling and “walkability.”
The master plan was a key plank of Mayor Tim Dougherty’s first term. Residents appear pretty happy with the town’s direction under his watch–in November they re-elected him by a landslide in a three-way race.
Morristown remains a center for activism; the local nonprofit Wind of the Spirit demonstrated throughout the year for immigration reforms.
And Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman and adoptee rights advocate Pam Hasegawa organized a mothers’ group to press for gun law reforms in the wake of the Newtown, CT., school massacre.
Town hall also hosted its first gay wedding, after same-sex unions became legal in the Garden State.
And two of Morristown’s most venerable social service agencies–the Morristown Neighborhood House and Family Service of Morris County--joined forces as Cornerstone Family Programs.
On the airwaves, a former couple from Morristown finished second on The Amazing Race.
In a coda to one of Morristown’s strangest legal stories, former town Human Services Director Tommy Alexander was cleared of animal cruelty charges.
The downtown said goodbye to some old friends, including…
And it welcomed some new ones:
The Cake Boss is coming. So is renowned restaurateur Chris Cannon, to the Vail Mansion. Cambridge Wines scootered into town, next door to the future home of Godfather’s Pizza. The Pita Grill opened for business. Millie’s Old World Meatballs & Pizza won many fans. The owner of Mehndi’s won New Jersey’s Restaurateur of the Year prize, and entrusted the company’s future to her son.
Milestones included the 200th anniversary of Family Service of Morris County, which changed its name to Cornerstone Family Programs.
And the Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green, organized by the Morristown Partnership, marked the centennial of the first tree-lighting on the historic square.
The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival celebrated its third year by showcasing a 14-year-old guitar sensation named Quinn Sullivan.
The Mayo Performing Arts Center, the Morristown & Township Library and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church got facelifts this year, and it became easier to find local historic sites thanks to new signs rolled out by the Morris County Tourism Bureau.
Some unfinished business carries over into the New Year. Despite promises from elected officials, the public still has not been told what caused the devastating explosion at the library in 2010.
And more than a year after residents complained about problems from unruly bar patrons, the Morristown council has not yet worked out plans to charge bar owners for extra weekend security patrols downtown.
On the plus side, Morristown manhole covers have behaved themselves, the library has not exploded for awhile and we got through an entire year without a hurricane, tropical storm, blizzard or earthquake.
At MorristownGreen.com, meanwhile, our sixth MG Film Festival was the biggest one yet. And we were honored to accept awards from Bethel A.M.E. Church and the Morristown Neighborhood House for our local coverage.
Thanks to all of our readers, advertisers, donors and volunteers who made it possible for MG to serve the Greater Morristown community in 2013. With your continued support, we will do our best to inform and entertain you in 2014. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to everyone!