By Kevin Coughlin
An apartment/retail complex contemplated for Market and Bank streets would feature a recessed entrance suited for café dining, loft-style windows and possibly, cheery lighting across Market Street to create a “festival character,” an architect told the Morristown council on Thursday.
“The idea is human-centered public spaces, with pedestrian-friendly streets,” Dean Marchetto said.
The five-story, 70,000-square-foot redevelopment project may include 55 apartments and 22,000-square-feet of street-level retail storefronts with a restaurant, according to Jacob Feldman, a principal in Millburn-based Vertical Realty Capital LLC, which is partnering with Stolar Capital of Hoboken.
Feldman’s team intends to return to the council next month for more discussions.
FROM ‘RUM ALLEY’ TO ‘GATEWAY’
The Vertical Realty group purchased two properties at 35-41 Market St. from gallery owner Harry Simon and his sister for $6.2 million last year. Tenants at the time included the Simon Gallery and a pair of fitness businesses. A warehouse, vacant since 1985, has a partially collapsed roof.
If approved, Vertical’s plans will continue a redevelopment push intended to transform this former “Rum Alley” into the “Gateway to Morristown.”
The Hampshire realty company in Morristown paid the Simons $2.65 million last year for an adjacent parcel, in a neighborhood officials describe as blighted.
A triangular building under construction at that site is the future home of law firm Fox Rothschild.
Hampshire also is replacing a dilapidated alley with a pedestrian walkway linking Market and Bank streets.
An international hotel chain, meanwhile, expressed intentions in January to erect a 120-room Cambria hotel on the other side of the Vertical Realty properties, closer to the historic Morristown Green.
Vertical aims to meet its affordable housing obligation by paying $800,000 to Morris Habitat for Humanity, to create 10 affordable condos at 43-47 Martin Luther King Ave.
Habitat will use the money to buy a project under construction at that MLK location, said Habitat CEO Blair Schleicher Bravo.
“We’re very excited. It will be great to give folks the opportunity to own their own homes,” Bravo said.
Thursday’s presentation gave the council its first look at 3D visualizations of the Vertical project, which calls for a fitness center, communal room, barbecue area and, maybe, greenhouses, on the roof.
“I think the renderings are incredible,” said town Planner Phil Abramson. “It’s just a better version of what was approved in 2005″ in a town redevelopment plan.
“It’s a very small, tight site,” the planner added. “There’s not a ton of room for creative moves. The architect found ways to be creative.”
“We want to see it become a destination in Morristown, a place my family can be proud of for years,” said Feldman, a third-generation developer with degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. “We’re improving on what’s been a blighted area.”
Feldman’s father, Joseph, accompanied him to Thursday’s presentation. The family has built 1,000 homes in New Jersey over the last three decades and operates another 1,400 apartments in the Garden State, plus three hotels in Massachusetts, according to Jacob Feldman.
What will rents be like at Market and Bank?
“Whatever the market will bear,” Feldman said. “We’re not looking to set any new records.”