Video: Ken Smith public workshop on Speedwell park proposal
By Kevin Coughlin
It’s a challenging site– and not just because of the narrow, steeply sloped topography described by planners.
Morristown residents and civic leaders on Thursday questioned how the town will maintain a linear park proposed for the Modera 55 redevelopment project off Speedwell Avenue, and what sorts of activities officials will allow there.
Landscape architect Ken Smith of Ken Smith Workshop presented drawings depicting a pathway winding through four green spaces culminating in a lawn, surrounded by terraces, hedges and trees. The effect, he said, “could be a garden-like feel more like a neighborhood,” or a series of “garden rooms.”
his as-yet unnamed park might include zigzag benches, exercise stations, chess- and ping pong tables and even a gas fireplace–a suggestion that brought oohs and ahs from listeners who came to the public workshop in Morristown High School’s new Learning Center.
The 0.75-acre strip of land, bounded by Speedwell Avenue and Prospect Street, narrows from 175 feet wide to just 35 feet across, with a change in elevation equivalent to a two-story building, Smith said.
“Even though it’s a tight space, we can create a good space, where people will want to be,” he said. Lighting would be understated– along handrails, perhaps, or with strings of holiday lights, Smith said.
The target for completion is 2018, to coincide with the opening of the 185-apartment Modera 55 project. It’s part of a massive redevelopment of Speedwell Avenue that so far includes the 268-unit Modera 44 apartments and a CVS pharmacy.
Creation of the park will be funded by approximately $500,000 from the developer, and a matching amount from the town’s proceeds of the sale of its former public works site to the Modera builders, according to Council President Stefan Armington, whose Third Ward includes the location.
The developer also has agreed to pay $50,000 for artwork, still to be determined, for the park, said town Administrator Jillian Barrick.
Maintenance of the park initially will be provided by the developer and the town, with the town gradually assuming full responsibility, Barrick said. The town also will oversee scheduling of activities there. Like other parks in town, this one probably will be open from dawn to dusk, she said.
Alice Cutler, a trustee of the Morristown Green, called the park plans “impressive and exciting,” but added: “The abiding concern is maintenance. I know how much time and money goes into maintaining the Green.”
Kristin Ace, chairperson of the town Shade Tree Commission, suggested a bed of soft, fragrant thyme would consume less water than grass. Smith said he wasn’t sure if it would be hardy enough for heavy use.
The park should serve as a “healing space,” said Ashley Anglin, a member of a coalition called Morristown United for Healthy Living. Some residents of the Third and Second Wards fear gentrification will drive them out, she said.
“We need to think more about how people can use the space to enhance diversity,” Anglin said.
Brian Lozano of the immigration advocacy group Wind of the Spirit expressed similar thoughts.
“I think the plans are great,” he said. “My hope is that the programming and activities are inclusive and multicultural and multilingual, so everyone feels included.”
Newcomer Joni Gilton moved to Modera 44 from Austin, Texas, last week. While she wonders how noisy the park might be, she expressed excitement about having greenery outside her window–a rarity in downtown Austin.
“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a small space to work with, but I like the different zones,” Gildon said. “I like the sociability and walkability
A second and final workshop is scheduled for Dec. 13, 2016, at 7 pm in town hall.