Borrowing elements from other projects in Morristown, the developer of 85 apartments proposed for Morris Street unveiled plans on Thursday intended to allay concerns of residents who deemed the structure too jarring for a neighborhood in the shadow of George Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters.
The initial concept aimed to put a retro spin on the neighborhood’s distant industrial past, but struck neighbors as “too modern and harsh,” acknowledged architect Frank Minervini:
The updated design presented to the Morristown council incorporates more brick façades, reduces some window sizes, offsets red and grey colors, and shifts the four-story section to the western side, adjacent to commercial properties, while places three stories on the eastern portion, abutting a residential development.
“It’s certainly a different building, a different asthetic….instead of one big monolithic building, you look down at smaller pieces,” Minervini said. The revised proposal looks like this:
It incorporates design aspects of the triangular Fox Rothschild law office at Market and Bank Streets, and an apartment building and Cambria Hotel approved for (but not yet completed) on Market Street, said Frank Vitolo, the Riker Danzig attorney representing Hampshire.
“We are very open to modifying the plan as we go along,” Vitolo said,
The redevelopment project tentatively is titled “The LW,” for Live-Work. Apartments would have movable walls, enabling work-at-home residents to reconfigure rooms for business meetings.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click /hover over images for captions:
Gone is a proposed art studio; a ground-floor coffee shop is proposed instead. Thursday’s revised plans relocate the shop away from the Morris Street entrance. Thirteen apartments would be designated as affordable units. Most of the 111 parking spaces would sit underneath the apartments, and would not be visible from Morris Street, Minervini said.
Residents at the sparsely attended Valentine’s evening meeting reacted mostly favorably.
“I believe the architect listened quite well to a lot of our comments from the first meeting” in December, said Mike Kurek.
Resident Leslie Raff asked if the top level of one wing could be recessed, and if the colors could be enhanced, to further diminish the impression of a massive structure. Another resident, Linda Carrington, requested non-reflective windows, to prevent birds from flying into them.
Non-reflective windows would be used, answered Minervini, who also agreed that the color contrast could be greater. The revised plans were pulled together quickly and are a work-in-progress, he said. Additional tweaks are anticipated at a future meeting.
Former Councilwoman Marge Brady was more critical of the emerging design. Citing planning courses she had taken years ago, she noted stylistic touches in the artist’s renderings that she suggested were tricks of the trade to make the structure appear smaller.
Taking a long view, Brady asserted that architecture is prone to generational fads.
“You have to be careful to choose a style that won’t become laughable in another decade,” she cautioned.
Town officials seemed generally pleased, however.
“I think the concept is brilliant,” said Councilwoman Alison Deeb, who represents the Fourth Ward. “Live-work is cutting edge.”
“I’m happy with this. The residents like it better,” said Councilman Robert Iannaccone, whose First Ward includes the 175 Morris St. site.
Traffic reports come later in the process. As envisioned now, LW tenants would be prohibited from turning left onto Morris Street.
Iannaccone would like to see Hampshire pursue an agreement with neighboring developments to share an access road to Ford Avenue.
Council President Toshiba Foster, Vice President Hiliari Davis and Councilman Michael Elms did not attend the session.