Couldn’t make the M Station public workshop in Morristown? Here’s the video. Next meeting: July 17

Standing room crowd listens to M Station pitch, June 27, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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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.

MORE ABOUT M STATION

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4 COMMENTS

  1. morristowngreen.com has a Find A Story box on the side of the page. I typed in Atrium Gallery and the links to 15 columns in the last 5 years came up. Most of the headlines referred to keeping the Gallery open and supporting the artists featured there, rather than the view expressed here. Don’t really understand what this has to do with the 8 story office buildings and traffic issues relating to the proposals for Spring and Morris Streets. The negative comments at that public hearing were reorted but had nothing to do with Art in the Atrium.

    In fact, where else can you get this kind of coverage and access to local news today?

  2. If you’d like more contributions you need to deliver more balanced reporting. Your reporting on the closing of the Atrium Gallery was incomplete and disappointing and alienated a lot of us who wanted to see the gallery remain open.

  3. Thank you for this Kevin. Listening to the presentation again, brought up several points made that require answers in order to make an informed decision, especially since the majority of the council and administration were not here a decade ago, when the original redevelopment area was created, as an extension of what is the partially completed transit village redevelopment zone, with a major expansion currently planned in that area.

    The fact that the planner involved 10 years ago testified that his original concept is already obsolete is telling. Many of Morristown’s building considered to have character, are over 100 years old and remain functional, while other newer projects are known for the negative impacts they had on the Town and the entire area surrounding them. most notably, HQ Plaza on Speedwell Ave.

    Phil’s theory about the Morris Street Plaza as a strip mall following the highway construction is fiction. The fact is that this was one of a number of sites developed for supermarkets in the 50s and 60s, all with sizable parking lots. This site was developed for an A&P. There was another A&P on Washington St., now a Whole Foods Market. The grand Union was located on Elm Street and is now a multi use site. The Food Fair Super Market on South Street is now known as King’s Plaza. All had other businesses and stores locate there to take advantage of the parking. Ironically, many of the stores that relocated to Morris Street came there asa result of the negative impact of the HQ Plaza on much of Speedwell Ave., which had been a thriving retail shopping area before the construction process devastated the area. Morristown Deli moved to Morris Street, as did Danziger’s Bakery, then one of the most popular in Town.
    My concern here is that the impact of what is now proposed to replace existing “old fashioned” active businesses, will mimic the negative impact of the unnecessarily dense HQ Plaza rather than the rosy future promised by the developers, with the people occupying to the sidewalk along the busy street instead of the Green.

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