Tashmoo expansion, HQ Plaza park, Cambria hotel get approvals in Morristown

The latest plans for Pioneer Park. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Plans for Pioneer Park. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Three projects that will dramatically alter Morristown’s downtown got unanimous approvals from the planning board on Thursday.

A 228-seat restaurant is coming to DeHart Street, a landscaped park will sprout across from the historic Morristown Green at Headquarters Plaza, and a 116-room “boutique” hotel is destined for Market Street.

The restaurant, which will share a liquor license with the Tashmoo Restaurant & Bar  next door, received a variance to waive a town requirement to provide 205 parking spaces on-site.

Ample spaces are available at Morristown Parking Authority facilities within 1,000 feet of the site, a consultant for applicant David Walsh told the board.

Commercial house at 10 DeHart St. would be replaced by bowling nightclub if the town approves a liquor license transfer sought by the Walsh family. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
This house at 10 DeHart St. must go to make room for a new restaurant. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Although parking often is tight at the DeHart Street garage directly across from the proposed restaurant, up to 400 spaces are available at the Ann / Bank Street garage, according to parking authority counts from eight evenings over two weeks in March and April.

“I think it’s terrific,” Walsh’s attorney, Brian Fahey, said of the variance. “It’s exactly what we hoped we would get. It’s appropriate.”

“This underscores the importance of public parking,” said town Planner Phil Abramson. 

Abramson said the board heard persuasive testimony that many restaurant patrons probably would be in town anyway, for shows at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, and so they actually might not be increasing the demand for parking. Some patrons also may use taxi services like Uber and Lyft, or mass transit, he said.

Restaurant construction cannot start until Walsh obtains approvals to move a three-story house off the 10 DeHart St. site.  That application will be filed soon, Fahey said.

Morristown realtor Kathryn “Kit” Godby wants to relocate the 122-year-old house–which already has been moved once–to a vacant lot on Catherine Lane, for use as a three-family residence, Fahey said.

‘A FIRST-CLASS PROJECT’

The board also approved a site plan for improvements to transform Headquarters Plaza’s Pioneer Park from a barren, windswept slab of concrete into a tree-shaded, family friendly concourse with swing sets, trellises and an artificial turf lawn suitable for small concerts and movies.

“We’re going to get an outstanding space that the public will like. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Council President Stefan Armington, who also serves on the planning board.

Ken Smith Workshop, a high-profile landscape architectural firm, solicited public suggestions while designing the project for the Olnick Organization and Fisher Development, joint owners of Headquarters Plaza.

Movies are returning to Headquarters Plaza in Morristown.
Headquarters Plaza in Morristown.

Upgrades to Pioneer Park are part of a 2014 deal in which the town sold its land rights beneath HQ Plaza for $1.6 million. 

The owners had agreed to spend between $500,000 and $1.15 million to make the park more inviting. On Thursday, they indicated their investment now will be more like $4 million.

“They are doing a lot more than anticipated. They decided to make it a first-class project,” said Jay DeLaney Jr., lawyer for the owners.

One major expense, according to town Zoning Officer James Campbell, will be ripping up the entire plaza to repair a membrane that is leaking into the parking garage below.

Additionally, Vision Real Estate Partners, new owners of the adjacent 1776 office building, have expressed interest in extending the park renovations to the front of their building.

Details on signage remain to be ironed out. The HQ owners want a “Headquarters Plaza” sign for the park; the town prefers to have Morristown highlighted.

Also to be resolved: Who will control event scheduling for the space.  Because the park received state Green Acres funding in 1981, public access cannot be denied, Abramson said.

While there is an outside chance that Pioneer Park can be revamped this year, next spring is more likely, Abramson said.

CAMBRIA STOREFRONTS

Although the Cambria hotel got its green light earlier this month, some conditions were tacked on and they were approved on Thursday.

These included the developers’ agreeing to use high-quality materials–town construction officials will be the arbiters–and to ensure emergency- and trash removal access for their neighbor, the Market Street Mission.

Proposed seven-story Cambria hotel, as viewed from Bank Street.
Proposed seven-story Cambria hotel, as viewed from Bank Street.

The Cambria also agreed to create two ground-level retail spaces, accessible from Bank Street and from inside the hotel.

Armington, the council president, said all eyes will be on the Cambria’s plan to meet its guests’ parking needs via valet service to the Dalton garage, several minutes away.

“There’s definitely demand for additional hotel space,” Armington said. “If they make the valet parking work, it will work. If not, it will go under.”

MORE ABOUT TASHMOO

MORE ABOUT PIONEER PARK

MORE ABOUT CAMBRIA

 

 

 

 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Marge as far as developers using up space in the parking garages and streets, your own authority is granting spaces to these same developers, you need to address your concerns to the Mayor, council and authority, while development is good the poor planning has made a mess of the parking situation.

  2. Marge Brady who is a MPA commissioner when 40 park was developed as a joint venture with the MPA, disregarded ordinances which mandated loading docks for deliveries. The authority tried to take property rights granted to my and other buildings along south st by giving our right of way to others. We are fighting to protect these rights given to us in 1884 the MPA is spending an enormous amount of money to hide this fact, and Marge is partly responsible as a commissioner.

  3. Has anyone noticed that since Cavanaugh has filed lawsuits against his neighbors, and the Parking Authority, they are restricted from making comments. Meanwhile, the same people with no last names seem to support anything that adds to the congestion, noise or disruption of other Morristown businesses and the lives of its residents.

    The MPA was intended to provide public parking and not cater to the needs of any developer, who for his own economic gain, wants to exceed the legal limits placed on the use of his property.

  4. What is the big deal about parking? Especially if you’re going out for a night of drinking? Take Uber or Lyft. Take the train to Morristown and walk a few blocks.

    That is great news about the hotel. Downtown needs it and all of the other changes going on. Love it!

  5. This comment, “This underscores the importance of public parking,” said town Planner Phil Abrasion., underscores the selfishness of the town to remove “private” parking and leave few if any alternatives other than to pay the town. It seems the town thinks more of revenue than comfort for its citizens. I think it may be time to move from this area.

  6. Awesome – can’t wait for the new restaurant. Agree with Jim, no idea why Gran Cantina is being denied. Maybe the town knows better than the 1000s of people out looking for another cool bar/restaurant each weekend.

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