The developer and the public both had plenty to say at last month’s workshop for M Station, a proposed 400,000-square foot office/retail complex and traffic roundabout that would replace Morristown’s Midtown Shopping Center strip mall at Morris and Spring streets.
Is M Station a much-needed facelift that will transform an eyesore… or another giant step toward gentrification to further divide Morristown’s haves from its have-nots?
If you could not attend the workshop, here is the video. UPDATE: The developer is scheduled back before the town council at 7 pm on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, according to Councilman Robert Iannaccone.
Part 1: Overview. Morristown Planner Phil Abramson and project attorney Frank Vitolo describe M Station, a 400,000-square-foot office/retail project proposed for the Midtown Shopping Center at Morris and Spring streets
Part 2: Resident Rhonda Willoughby calls the project a divisive ‘monstrosity.’ Gensler architect Roger Smith says M Station will be ‘a special place.’
Part 3: Traffic consultant Matt Seckler describes how roundabouts differ from traffic circles. He says the roundabout proposed for Morris and Spring streets, though no panacea for town-wide traffic, will keep cars flowing at 15 mph, with greater safety for pedestrians than the present traffic signal. He predicts improved access to I-287 and discusses anticipated employee traffic and the realignment of Spring Place.
Part 4: ‘Creating a Destination.’ Returning to the microphone, project architect Roger Smith says: ‘We want to create a destination,’ with public spaces for festivals and street fairs.
Part 5: During public comments, resident Vera White asks developer SJP Properties to retain strip mall restaurants favored by low-income customers. Another resident charges that the town prefers ‘suits’ (business people) to ‘unsavory’ shoppers. Resident Ken Hoffman inquires about traffic projections and pedestrian bridges over a roundabout. Council President Toshiba Foster wants better traffic data. Project attorney Frank Vitolo reiterates a developer pledge to help relocate displaced businesses. Peter Bronsnick of SJP Properties reminds the audience that business leases are finite and at the pleasure of the property owner (Scotto Properties).
Part 6: During public comments, town Administrator Jillian Barrick says this proposal is in its infancy and there are no done deals. Project attorney Frank Vitolo says more planning already has gone into M Station than other town projects. Resident Andrew Rosenberg objects to the size of M Station. Resident Donna McNamara says the national trend is for smaller corporate offices, not bigger ones; she predicts an isolated corporate ‘island.’ Resident Karen Ann Kurlander objects to ‘love it or lump it’ pitch. Resident Linda Stamato insists the project should be assessed in the context of other developments in town. Resident Lorena Inestroza wants a fireworks display.
Part 7: During public comments, project attorney Frank Vitolo defends the minority hiring record of his firm, Riker Danzig, and the role of Headquarters Plaza in the downtown economy. Local landlord Doug Greenberger says growth is inevitable and applauds the M Station proposal. Café owner Andrea Lekberg says the project will help businesses like hers.