Proposed storage center draws huge crowd to Morristown town hall

Crowd packs Morristown seniors center to hear about storage center proposed for Morris Street. Photo by Rich Modzeleski
Crowd packs Morristown seniors center in July 2016 to hear about storage center proposed for Morris Street. Photo by Rich Modzeleski
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Crowd packs Morristown seniors center to hear about storage center proposed for Morris Street. Photo by Rich  Modzeleski
Crowd packs Morristown seniors center to hear about storage center proposed for Morris Street. Photo by Rich Modzeleski

By Kevin Coughlin

One of the largest crowds seen at a Morristown zoning workshop came out Monday to learn about a proposed storage center — and left planners with plenty of feedback to file away.

Some audience members said the presentation at the packed seniors center raised more questions than it answered about the five story, 100,000-plus-square-foot storage facility proposed for Morris Street.

Hampshire Properties paid $5 million, according to public records, for property that formerly housed Milelli’s Auto Service and Towing and an oil distribution operation.  Town planners say potential environmental issues would make it a tricky spot for residential development. More than 70 apartments are going up next door.

One sweetener being offered is a 2,600-square-foot art studio, which would be run by the nonprofit Morris Arts.

But members of the Franklin Corners neighborhood association, across the NJ Transit railroad tracks and up the hill from the site, are concerned that apartments on Hill Street will be faced with an unpleasant view of the storage structure.

And some contend that a storage center runs contrary to years of town plans that have aimed to transform the stretch of Morris Street between the train trestle and Route 287 from a gritty assortment of gas stations and used car lots into a residential gateway to Morristown.

An artist’s rendering depicting a glowing facade “looked to me as though a huge box had landed from outer space,” said Margret Brady, a former councilwoman.

After Route 287 cut a swath through the neighborhood in 1968, many residents were galvanized to push to make Morris Street  “a picturesque historic link from Washington’s Headquarters to the
Schuyler-Hamilton house to the train station, and ending at our historic Morristown Green,” Brady said.

Other residents expressed frustration with the format of the workshop, which was not structured as a Q & A session, and with the cramped quarters that made it difficult for many to view a slide presentation.

Town Planner Phil Abramson thanked attendees for their “time, participation, and candor” in an email sent afterwards.

“We have begun to catalog and synthesize your feedback,” said Abramson, who described the attendance as possibly the largest during his tenure in Morristown.  Next steps are to be determined.  “Please stay tuned,” he said.

The storage center probably would require zoning revisions. The Morris Street redevelopment plan does not currently include storage facilities as permitted uses, according to Abramson. And the business zone only allows three-story structures.

 Tom Werder, executive director of Morris Arts, called the evening “lively and informative.

“We heard a great deal of support for the Artist Studio part of the plan,” Werder said via email. “There were a number of people who showed up who learned a lot of new information about the plans. We heard that people wished that the Artist Studio was a much larger part of the program for the new building.”

Werder said it’s too soon to say what tweaks, if any, might be made to the studio portion of the proposal, “unless we can make it larger.”

A five-story, 100,000-square-foot self-storage facility and artists studio is proposed for this location on Morris Street. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A five-story, 100,000-square-foot self-storage facility and artists studio is proposed for this location on Morris Street. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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10 COMMENTS

  1. As an FYI, although only two stories tall but still coming in at 77,000 sq. feet, another self storage center is under consideration in Morris Township just about a one mile straight shot down Columbia Turnpike adjacent to Honeywell lot. An application was taken up by the Township Board of Adjustment at their April meeting and I assume is under consideration. Hard to believe their is such a high demand for storage facilities? Who knows if the two projects are even aware the other exists? Included below is content from the Board of Adjustment meeting and a link to same.

    Block 9002, Lot 13, 99 Columbia Road, OL-40 zone. Section C & D.
    Applicant proposes construction of a two story high self-storage facility of approximately
    77,000 square feet of floor area. A management office and two bedroom manager’s
    apartment unit are included within the building floor area. In addition, an emergency
    generator is also proposed to the easterly side lot line.

    https://www.morristwp.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/04252016-717

  2. Artisit space is great.
    But the rest of the project is misguided – the use is far appropriate for Ridgedale Ave. We need to work to create places for people within the neighborhood, not places to store stuff.

  3. Any site can be remediate, I’ve done this in many locations, it’s called Brownfield Redevelopment sponsored by the State.

  4. “Town planners say potential environmental issues would make it a tricky spot for residential development. More than 70 apartments are going up next door.”

    I guess the potential environmental issues stop at the property line and don’t encroach on the new apartments next door.

  5. Maybe the fact that most of the new condo/apartments developments do not offer ample internal storage space for their tenants has prompted the need for this type of building/use.

    Let’s not be so quick to condemn it before considering options.

  6. We have the opportunity to connect that part of town to Washingtons HQ @ The Ford Mansion, it would be a shame to not plan appropriately and extend the waking appeal of Morristown. There is no need for a facility like that in downtown Morristown. The town has already found a way to blemish the Speedwell/Early St redevelopment by allowing a Pawn Shop right at that corner. Who makes these decisions???

  7. That part of town does have great potential to be cleaned up. A storage unit facility just cements that part of town as being filthy and doesn’t enhance the town of being walkable and historic. Usually these places are off the beaten path and shouldn’t be at the end of New Jersey’s most walkable downtown.

  8. Grow It Green found a positive way to deal with a contaminated site of a former junkyard on Early Street .Look at the positive impact that has had on that street. Morristown’s new Moderna development benefitted from that improvement. Picture the Morris Street proposal at the Early Street location. Would Moderna be as attractive to new residents with a warehouse in that location? The Hill Street apartments and Morris Street homes are among the most affordable in Morristown. We would welcome Morris Arts if they could support a Grow It Green Garden here on Morris Street, where residents and workers in this part of Town could walk and bike and our children would have a green space to go to in their neighborhood.

  9. The brightly lit Morris Arts addition to the facade of a warehouse larger than anything in the area, reminded me of the prostitutes in their garish makeup distracting tourists in Times Square. My new nick name for Morris Arts is Morris Lipstick. How disappointing it was to learn that they have become the lipstick on this pig of a development. How does this big donation to a Morris County Group with a reputation for doing great things to improve commercial developments, benefit the Franklin Corners neighborhood. With no parking, on the edge of the most densely populated, diverse and historic neighborhood in Morristown, what positive purpose could it serve in that location? How about sustaining our quality of life and working to eliminate the ugly used car lots, gas stations and NJ Transit underpass eyesores instead. This prostitute must have been wearing a blindfold.

  10. I LOVE the huge “Morris Arts” signage on the facde of this building proposal. It really makes a statement that Morristown supports the arts!!!!

    Learned at this session that the land under this parcel was contaminated by an ajacent property. Won’t that severely limit options to those that don’t disturb the soil? This seems like a good solution given that condition.

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