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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”