Morristown’s triangular ‘Gateway’ gets key approvals, but there’s a catch

The Morristown council, acting as town redevelopment agency, approves a redevelopers agreement for Market & Bank streets. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Morristown council, acting as town redevelopment agency, approves a redevelopers agreement for Market & Bank streets. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The Morristown council, acting as town redevelopment agency, approves a redevelopers agreement  for Market & Bank streets. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, aug 12, 2015
The Morristown council, acting as town redevelopment agency, approves a redevelopers agreement for Market & Bank streets. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

By Kevin Coughlin

It only took the Morristown council a few minutes on Thursday night to grant what appeared to be the final approval needed for construction of a triangular five-story office being touted as the “Gateway to Morristown.”

As it turns out, however, the council must meet again — and fast — to ensure that the Gateway gets off the ground.

Sketch of proposed triangle building between fork of Market and Bank streets. Courtesy of Dean Marchetto
Sketch of proposed triangle building between fork of Market and Bank streets. Courtesy of Dean Marchetto

An attorney for The Hampshire Companies, developers of the project known as 55 Market Urban Renewal LLC, informed the council on Thursday that the building’s proposed tenant, the Fox Rothschild law firm, has the right to back out if all approvals are not secured by Sept. 1, 2015.

No tenant, no project.

Technically, at least one town approval still is pending.  Council members on Tuesday unanimously blessed a financial agreement establishing a schedule of payments-in-lieu-of-taxes for the property, a wedge of “blighted” land between Market and Bank streets.

A second, binding vote was scheduled for Sept. 8 — beyond the Fox Rothschild deadline.  So council members now are juggling summer vacation calendars to see when they can squeeze in a special meeting this month to enact the ordinance.

Thursday’s 5-0 council vote (sans members Michael Elms and Michelle Dupree Harris ) approved the other remaining legal document, a redevelopment agreement spelling out deadlines and obligations of Hampshire.

That agreement memorializes Hampshire’s commitment to install a sidewalk, replace a seedy alley with a pedestrian stairway, create a small public park, and earmark 1 percent of the total project cost for on-site art, among other things.

OPENING TARGET: DECEMBER 2016

Hampshire aims to complete construction by December 2016, said attorney Stephen Urban.

Demolition of existing structures, which include a former knitting shop  damaged by a car crash, should be finished this month, according to town redevelopment Attorney John Inglesino.

An environmental cleanup — consisting mostly of hauling away displaced soil, Inglesino said–must be finished by Oct. 31, per the agreement.

Plans for the triangular park await approvals from the state Department of Transportation. Details of the one-percent art project are being ironed out, too, said Phil Abramson, the town’s planning consultant.

Town officials sounded eager for everything to come together.

“Morristown’s got to be one of the only places in the state of New Jersey where there is demand for new office space,” said Council President Rebecca Feldman.

“We continue moving the town forward,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, praising the council for supporting the project and collaborating with his administration.

The site straddles Councilwoman Alison Deeb’s Fourth Ward. “I see this eyesore every day. I’m looking forward to these improvements.”

So are the developers.

“We have to tidy up a few things, and we’ll go ahead at full speed,” said Urban, Hampshire’s lawyer.

 

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Geez Warren…..How many years ago was that demolition project APPROVED by the town council?? How many years since its been completed?? The friggin” trees have already grown back! The “outrage” was misplaced then as it is now. Certainly there are more important issues that you can complain about.

  2. where is the outrage for the 19th century homes that were demolished on Ann Street… and have laid fallow for almost a decade now.. Blighted land indeed… Everyone who goes to the courthouse sees this blighted land…
    who’s in a hurry with so much empty real estate in Morris Township..

    Can you say tax abatement? Sure you can.

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