By Kevin Coughlin
Market Street, a former “Rum Alley” being touted as a “Gateway to Morristown,” will include luxury apartments, shops and a restaurant to complement the triangular law office already approved for this redevelopment zone.
At least, that’s what the new owners of 35-41 Market Street say they will pitch to town officials in coming months.
“This is one of the few places in New Jersey with a live-work-play environment, a unique environment. We thought this is a fantastic opportunity,” said Jake Feldman, a principal in Millburn-based Vertical Realty Capital LLC.
He is part of a group that has purchased two properties from gallery owner Harry Simon and his sister, Lisa Lanterman, for $6.2 million.
Feldman said he is partnering with Peter Brosens of Stolar Capital in Hoboken and construction manager Alex Elkin.
The number of apartments — and other aspects of the project — must be hashed out with town planners and the town’s redevelopment authority, which is the town council.
Council members left this stretch of Market Street for future discussion back in April, when they revised a 2005 redevelopment plan to accommodate a five-story,wedge-shaped law office building on a sliver of land between Market and Bank streets.
The Hampshire realty company in Morristown paid the Simons $2.65 million for that parcel, in an area officials describe as “blighted.”
Sixty-four residential units and 35,000 square feet of retail appear to be the maximums allowed for the entire zone, according to the town’s redevelopment plan.
Market trends have seen local construction shift from condos to apartments in recent years, and this project will follow suit.
Feldman promised a “building of the highest quality” that will appeal to Morristown’s “great mix of young professionals … empty nesters and general renters-by-choice.” His team intends to comply with affordable housing requirements set by the town, he said.
Morristown mandates that 12.5 percent of new units be set aside as affordable.
At least one council member has raised concerns about the possibility of bars opening in this zone, potentially exacerbating problems for nearby residents already upset by rowdy behavior from late-night crowds.
Feldman said he does not anticipate going in that direction.
“I don’t think a bar is something we would be willing to consider,” he said. “But a restaurant, absolutely.”
He also is talking with the Morristown Partnership about finding the right mix of shops for 22,000-square-feet of street-level retail space, he said.
Present tenants include Guerrilla Fitness (lease expires mid-2016), Oxygen Pilates (2017), and the Simon Gallery, scheduled to open its 20th season in September.
Harry Simon has agreed to vacate when the project is ready to break ground, said Feldman, a third-generation developer.
His grandfather and father built 1,000 homes over the last three decades, in Parsippany, Elizabeth, Sayreville and elsewhere, he said. The family operates another 1,400 apartments in New Jersey, along with three hotels in Massachusetts, he said.
Morristown is familiar to the 29-year-old Feldman. He attended Newark Academy, not far from town, before heading to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. His father-in-law, Dr. Mitchell Carter, is a surgeon with offices on James Street in Morris Township.
“I’m trying to convince my wife to move out here,” from New York City, Feldman said. “There’s a lot to love. The night life is great.”
If this project moves forward, it substantially will complete a dramatic transformation of Market Street (and, on the back end, Bank Street).
It began several years ago, when the venerable Epstein’s department store was replaced by the 40 Park luxury condos and the Metropolitan luxury apartments, Starbucks, and more recently, Carlo’s Bake Shop and The Salad House.
As the neighborhood — which includes a cavernous structure with a collapsed roof– continues its upscale climb, local observers will be curious to see what becomes of the Market Street Mission, for more than 125 years a life raft to down-and-out men in what once was known as “Rum Alley.”