A parking deck by any other name… is still a parking deck.
Or is it?
Addressing the Morristown Council on Tuesday, representatives of the Morristown Parking Authority (MPA) pitched a $17 million, five-deck garage behind the Post Office — in Municipal Lot 10 — as more than a place to stack 570 cars.
It’s also going to serve an architectural purpose, according to MPA counsel Robert Goldsmith.
“It kind of serves as a connector between the train station and the Green, and ties the train station into the heart of the town of Morristown,” Goldsmith said.
And so, he said, Hoboken architect Dean Marchetto was hired specifically for an aesthetic design, “something we haven’t done before.”
The surface lot is bounded by Morris Street, Dumont Place and Pine Street. Discussions about erecting a deck there date to at least to 2015, as a response to the growing parking needs of the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC).
Construction is anticipated to start this coming spring, with completion in spring 2021.
What the public will see, according to Marchetto, is a combination of brick façades, glass staircases, louvers and cornices, with a giant “scrim” — a netting that will hide parked cars behind artistic scenes that can be changed periodically.
“What makes a nice garage? One thing we like to do is take a look at what’s around it, and try to respond to the architecture of your town. We noticed there`are two different and distinct sides to the building…so maybe the building should have two different responses,” said Marchetto, who designed Morristown’s triangular Fox Rothschild office.
One side of the deck will face the Morristown Green and historic buildings such as the Post Office and the Presbyterian Church. The Dumont Place side looks towards the arts center and the town’s cultural district.
Three public spaces are envisioned: A narrow plaza connecting the garage to Morris Street; a 10-foot-wide sidewalk (dubbed the “Spring Street Extension”) bordering an adjoining apartment building planned next to the Grasshopper Off the Green tavern; and a “transitional” space.
This high-ceiling corner of the garage could accommodate the Morristown Farmers Market, and other events mixing indoor and outdoor activities.
Plans also call for rooftop solar panels, LED lighting, charging stations for electric vehicles, and possibly, and electronic system for counting vehicles, said Gerard Giosa, the MPA’s parking consultant.
Ninety metered spaces will remain at ground level around the deck, for people making quick visits to nearby businesses and restaurants, Giosa said.
During construction, 50- to 60 spaces will be reserved for neighboring businesses. Parking permits for the surface lot will be relocated to the Highlands garage near the train station, and to MPA decks on DeHart Street and Cattano Avenue, Giosa said.
(The MPA also owns a third garage, at Ann and Bank streets. The Morris/Dumont garage will be its fourth. At peak periods these facilities operate at 85 percent capacity, according to Giosa. Across Morris Street, meanwhile, a five-level, 1,000-space parking deck is planned as part of the recently approved M Station office redevelopment.)
‘PARKING GARAGES DON’T GENERATE TRAFFIC’
“We think is not only good, but desirable, and will address long-term needs of parking for the town of Morristown,” Goldsmith, the MPA attorney, said of the Lot 10 project.
He estimated the project’s cost at $30,000 per space. With 570 spaces, that works out to $17.1 million.
The parking authority will finance construction via bond sales, Goldmsith said. Since the MPA was established in 1956, “we’re all very proud of the fact that… we’ve never taken a penny or asked for a penny from the town of Morristown.”
Councilman Robert Iannaccone, the council liaison to the MPA, asked for an explanation of how the authority will allocate parking spaces in the deck.
“We need a clearer statement of what spaces are available,” and to what entities, said Iannaccone, who has prodded the MPA for months to update the council about its plans.
A DeHart Street restaurant and apartments and a hotel on Market Street have been approved without their own on-site parking, thanks to parking agreements with the MPA. Claremont Properties seeks a similar arrangement to build apartments on Schuyler Place.
Iannaccone is concerned such practices could drive over-development, exacerbating traffic congestion.
Any MPA traffic projections for the new parking deck should be incorporated, he said, into a broader traffic report that includes traffic estimates from multiple developments, planned or under construction. And such a report should be vetted by the town’s traffic consultant, he insists.
Goldsmith said the MPA has not yet determined how spaces will be allocated at the new deck. He downplayed concerns about extra traffic.
“The most important thing is, first, parking garages don’t generate traffic. They don’t create traffic,” Goldsmith said.
“In fact, from 1948, when the parking authority law was passed after the Second World War, there was recognition that parking facilities tend to reduce traffic because it gives people a destination to get to as a final point to park their cars.”
Other town officials generally reacted favorably the MPA .
“The presentation was excellent,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty. “This has been talked about for three years. Council members asked good questions. This clearly benefits MPAC, and will clear up congested parking in the DeHart garage.”
“I think it’s a great looking parking deck, a testament to the public improvements in town,” said Administrator Jillian Barrick, a participant in discussions involving the MPA and the Morristown Partnership.
Council President Toshiba Foster asked how the deck will be staffed. Goldsmith said it probably will be automated, like the DeHart Street deck, with someone available to respond when issues arise. Councilman Michael Elms suggested black bricks instead of red ones for the façade.
Ultimately, however, these are only suggestions.
The Morristown Parking Authority is an independent agency, much like a school district. While it works closely with the town and generates revenue for the municipality by enforcing street parking regulations, the MPA needs no town approvals to erect the parking deck.
Goldsmith promised a presentation to the town planning board–as a courtesy.