Morris Street storage facility is out; developer will pitch apartments on Dec. 13

Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.
Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.
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Stiff public opposition has forced a proposed Morris Street storage facility onto the shelf. So the developer will try for a four-story apartment building instead.

Hampshire Realty is scheduled to pitch its revamped redevelopment plan to the Morristown Council this Thursday, Dec. 12, 2018, at 7 pm.

Separately, the council is likely to approve another company’s plans for 89 apartments behind the Morristown train station.

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

Residents packed several meetings to oppose Hampshire’s 100,000-square-foot self-storage center, proposed in 2016 as a five-story structure at 175 Morris St. that would have an artist studio attached. 

Critics opposed the aesthetics and scale of the Morris Street project, and raised questions about traffic and crime problems.

Hampshire now will seek approvals for a four-story building with apartments on the top three floors, above a parking area with retail spaces, town Planner Phil Abramson said on Tuesday. The art studio is gone, he said.

Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.
Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.

The developer has indicated the density would be consistent with adjacent redevelopment projects on Morris Street and Ford Avenue, according to Abramson.

Precise numbers were not available. But based on those two neighboring developments, that density would appear to fall between 80- and 85 apartments, depending on how many affordable units are mandated.

Frank Vitolo, the attorney representing Hampshire, could not be reached for comment.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what they have to offer…and to a good discussion with the project developer,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty.

Revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto
SHOT DOWN: This was the revised Morris Street self-storage proposal, May 22, 2018. Facing stiff public opposition, the developer has scrapped the plans. Rendering courtesy of Dean Marchetto

Councilman Robert Iannaccone, whose First Ward includes Morris Street, said he has questions about the density of the retooled project.

He expressed hopes for a coffee shop or diner on the ground level, and praised a “good community effort” for rebuffing the storage plans.

One issue to be explored is whether any environmental cleanup is required, Abramson acknowledged.  The site formerly housed an oil company and an auto repair shop. During the storage project discussions there were mentions of possible contamination from a nearby gas station.

Morristown’s recent zoning code update allows for mixed-use residential development on Morris Street, Abramson said.  The planner emphasized that Thursday’s presentation is simply intended as a first look for the council, which doubles as the town redevelopment agency.

“It’s preliminary, to see if the council is interested” in the project, Abramson said.

Hampshire has hired a new architectural firm, Minervini and Vandermark of Hoboken, to design the apartments, he noted.

Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.
Preliminary rendering of apartment complex proposed for 175 Morris St., December 2018.

Meanwhile, the council appears poised to give the green light to Bijou Properties of Hoboken to erect an L-shaped, five-story apartment / retail complex behind the train station, on a 1.75-acre parking lot it intends to buy from the Morristown Parking Authority.

The council gave its preliminary nod to the venture by a 5-0 vote last month, though some concerns were expressed about parking, disruptions to neighboring businesses, and the safety of pedestrians crossing busy Lafayette Avenue.

Dougherty said he looks forward to working with the council and the builder to make the train station apartments “a signature destination for our downtown.”

MORE COVERAGE OF THE MORRIS STREET REDEVELOPMENT

Housing complex proposed for Morristown train station parking lot. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto
Housing complex proposed for Morristown train station parking lot. Image courtesy of Dean Marchetto

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7 COMMENTS

  1. My response, Margaret Brady, whoever you are, is that the market drives development. Morristown is hot. People are moving there. Adding housing inventory also helps to keep housing costs lower than they would be if there were a housing shortage. You say that there is an oversupply of housing (high vacancy rate). Please cite your source.
    Personally, I wish they would rip out Headquarters Plaza and install more modern and better-designed high rises and bolster downtown’s corporate presence.

  2. My response to Jeff, whoever you are, is that no one with any knowledge of Morristown’s character would want to return to the phony colonial period of Morristown development, although most would prefer the 1960s Town Hall architecture to the Headquarters Plaza boxes that were actually built around 1976.

    Good design recognizes the proper scale and is designed in context with the neighborhood where it’s located. The key to Morristown remaining one of few County seats thriving, is that our historic character and green space kept us attractive and livable. Fad architecture with a 20 years lifespan does not create a livable community. At a time when Morristown already has a glut of new apartments, how many additional will the market bear?

  3. Margaret Brady, this isn’t 1975. Many parts of Morristown, thankfully, have been rebooted. The old “George Washington slept here” schtick was wearing thin. It’s projects like that that have revived the city and better position it for the present and future.

  4. A lot better than the storage units. Would be nice if one or even both of those side glass towers were retail and 3-4 stories modern office space above with the apartments in the middle and rear section.

  5. The Town of Morristown adopted Design Guidelines which can be found on the town website TownOfMorristown(dot)org.

    I ask the council to re-read them and ask how the proposed application fits the guidelines.

  6. My understanding is that Transit Village is not fully occupied. What is the need for another apartment building near the train station? Why is the parking Authority selling much-needed parking in this location?

  7. Another architect with no concept of the historic character that makes Morristown special and another proposal that totally ignores the fact that this is already the most densely populated area of Morristown with the least amount of Green space and severe traffic problems.
    Again, with a surprise meetings sprung during the middle of the holiday season, hoping for a low attendance. Residents of Morristown, I know are too experienced in these stunts to let them get away with this. See you at 7PM on Thurs. Dec. 13th at Twon Hall.

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