Here’s what architects say M Station will look like in Morristown

M Station rendering, view from proposed roundabout, June 4, 2020. Screenshot by MorristownGreen.com
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The M Station office/retail redevelopment will be “both functional and beautiful,” project attorney Frank Vitolo told the Morristown planning board on Thursday.

For nearly three hours, architects pitched a “people-centered” design for a “vibrant new destination” in town.

Rendering of M Station, center, as viewed from Post Office near the Green, June 4, 2020. Screenshot by MorristownGreen.com

They said elements will include a  “green wall” and polyester scrim murals, possibly depicting local historical scenes, on the six-story parking deck.

Two terra-cotta sided office buildings, standing six- and seven stories, will be in slightly different shades of umber, to appear less monolithic.

A terraced plaza will be suitable for concerts and poetry readings, the board was told. Light-colored pavement, new trees near the deck, and plantings in the proposed traffic roundabout should prevent the four-acre site from becoming a “heat island.”  Low-reflection windows should prevent birds from killing themselves.

The overall look is informed by George & Martha’s American Grille, across Morris Street, and an apartment building under construction at 45 Market St., according to project architect Peter Wang, a principal of the Gensler firm.

“You’re filling in a piece of land that has meaning and context to it… it forces the architect to respect what is there, what Morristown looks and feels like. You can’t just drop something in like it’s from outer space,” Wang testified.

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Scotto Properties and SJP Properties aim to replace Scotto’s Midtown Shopping Center strip mall at Morris and Spring streets with nearly 400,000 square feet of offices and retail, a parking deck, promenade, plaza and traffic roundabout.

Big Four accounting firm Deloitte has been announced as an anchor tenant.

Approved by the town council last October, M Station needs site plan approval from the planning board.

Thursday’s meeting, conducted via Zoom because of the pandemic, was M Station’s third before the board. An engineer and a traffic consultant testified previously.

When everyone Zooms back on June 11, 2020, Vitolo intends to present details on staging–when each piece will be built, and how those pieces will function as construction unfolds.

Morristown Planning Board, M Station meeting via Zoom, June 4, 2020. Screenshot by MorristownGreen.com

A “fly-through” by Gensler Design Director Roger Smith showed board members renderings of M Station as viewed from Morris and Spring streets; Spring Place; the Spring Hills assisted living center behind the site; and from the post office, near the Morristown Green.

Board Chairman Joe Stanley described it as one of the better design presentations he’s seen. Wang insisted the real thing will surpass the drawings.

PENTHOUSES?

There were some questions. Board member Dick Tighe asked about lost revenue from metered parking spaces that will be eliminated on Morris Street and Lackawanna Place. Vitolo said he will discuss that next week with the Morristown Parking Authority.

Mayor Tim Dougherty said he’s not convinced that 11-percent reflective windows and dimmed lights at night will avert bird strikes. He also sounded lukewarm about the terra-cotta design, saying he wanted to observe New York offices in that style.

And what happens when the murals’ 10-year warranty expires? inquired board member Debra Gottsleben. Wang said he hoped it would be “a matter of pride” for any future owner to maintain the scrims.

Roger Smith of the Gensler firm, June 4, 2020. Screenshot by MorristownGreen.com

Renderings showed mechanical equipment atop the two buildings shielded from view by boxy structures Wang called penthouses.

“To me, that doesn’t look like a penthouse,” said Board Planner Greer Patras.

Wang said “mechanical penthouse” is an architectural term that differs from the common perception of penthouses.

Despite the architect’s efforts to create texture with cornices, colors and contrasting window patterns, Patras felt the buildings still appeared “flat.”  She also contended the bright white parking deck clashed with the rest of the color scheme.

Morristown requires major developments to underwrite public art on their properties. Questioned by Patras, Wang said the murals are meant to “enhance the public experience”; whether they satisfy the developer’s art obligation is to be determined.

“It could if that was a commissioned public art piece,” Wang said.

Project art will be discussed at a future meeting, said Vitolo, the M Station attorney.

Patras also wanted to know if M Station will include “non-binary” (gender-neutral) bathrooms (it won’t), and whether the coronavirus, with its emphasis on social distancing and low-touch fixtures, has prompted any design changes.

M Station architect Peter Wang, June 4, 2020. Screenshot by MorristownGreen.com

“We’re still in the throes of the pandemic… it’s definitely an ongoing dialogue we are having,” Wang said.

A reporter’s questions about Deloitte’s lease status — the firm just announced 5,000 layoffs nationwide–and the viability of office buildings in a COVID-19 world, were not entertained; public questions were limited to specific testimony.

Large audiences brought plenty of questions to last year’s council hearings. Nobody watching from home on Thursday posed any queries to the board.

Responding to board questions from last week’s hearing, Vitolo said the developers have agreed to extend water lines to the roundabout for plantings. They also will monitor on-site air quality during construction, for the benefit of the Spring Hills assisted living center, he said.

In one of the Thursday’s more interesting exchanges, Wang explained why windows represent 45 percent of the two buildings’ facades. Sunlight makes for happier, healthier employees–he claimed hospitals with more sun have better patient outcomes.

Windows also symbolize transparency for companies like Deloitte, he asserted.

“We want you to see us, and we want to see you,” Wang said.

MORE ABOUT M STATION.

This story has been updated to include additional details about the rooftop penthouses, the developer’s public art obligation, and nationwide layoffs at Deloitte.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Ok Faith, thanks for pointing that out. Now, would you say this project should not move forward if the developer doesn’t spend hundreds of thousands of extra dollars on Ornithology glass to perhaps prevent birds from flying into it?

    And lets not pretend your entire comment wasn’t derogatory toward the project. It would be amiss if you did not admit you don’t think this project is good for the town. In addition, you have this similar viewpoint on other development projects and will not admit how much all of the development has helped improve this town, home prices, life, etc.

    “This development is terrible joke in so many ways…how did we get here?” seems to be your recurring take on most development happening.

  2. Connor, you asked in such a nice way, in response to my comment, “what glass do you suggest we use since your an expert on that too?” If you go and have a careful read of my comment you will find the answer is right there. I said, “According to U. of Cornell Ornithology “Ornilux Mikado, uses a random “pick-up sticks” pattern of UV-reflecting and UV-absorbing glaze to break up reflections to reduce bird collisions. UV light must be reflected for a bird to see it. To humans, the glass looks clear.”

  3. What is with the misconception that a PILOT costs taxpayers money?

    It is payments to the town, in lieu of taxes.

    Costs taxpayers $00000000

    It just means no money goes to the schools, and if the developments will bring in no new children, then it is a win-win

  4. @Terrance, thank you for the personal attack with no facts to respond to my concerns. The workspace environment has been drastically altered in the last 4 months…including their announcement of layoffs. So I ask again…are they still interested in that much space? Even the Board couldn’t answer that question when asked at the last hearing.
    Do you have any insight to their desired space? The make up of their company and how many work at home people they have, even before the pandemic? The amount of space they have now, are the increasing square footage or decreasing? Any feedback on the traffic study? Power supply? The Mayors ongoing lawsuit with the previous Deloitte proposal?

  5. Hey Connor, Matt, JT and other local biz astroturf folks…

    Can you tell us WHY residents should foot part of the tax bill for this (PILOT)? Why shouldn’t these grand entrepreneurs either suck it up and pay their fair share or if it’s not feasible without taxpayer assistance, step aside and let someone with a workable plan take over?

  6. For those pro M-Station, the circle may help some with traffic in front of M Station. It also brings a lot of cars to town. I can hardly get through the town now at peak hours. How about the back up to and from 287? As far as the full occupancy of the building, even if companies will desire employees to be in the office, & they need human contact, I think the extra time they save commuting would allow them to have more personal time for human contact with family, friends & neighbors instead of co-workers. In addition, the increase in “work from home” situations will cause more open space in some other office buldings in town. Doesn’t that lower the demand for space in this building? The rents will he high, and many companies are really taking a look at expenses.

  7. Because no one wants to work in Dover… They want to work in Morristown, so they can eat in Morristown, and presumably some live in Morristown.. that is why!

  8. Jeff.. no.. I’m not kidding. you obviously don’t know me.

    Remember what Delbarton tried to ram through in Morris Township….

  9. Why not put it in Dover? Economically depressed, recovering from a major fire. Less trouble with local zoning- I’ll bet their town fathers would welcome a project this large and broad reaching.
    Remember the word sprawl?
    That’s what this is.

  10. @Mtwngirl do you honestly even believe your own comment? Of course people can work from home (and get less done, as we are seeing) multi billion dollar company Deloitte can absolutely save a buck by getting a smaller space. However, mental health is a very important factor in productivity. Humans being around other humans is the single most important factor of mental health. Which in turn Means Deloitte wants space for employees and they want it in Morristown because it’s where people want to be. You must realize by now you can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes, just sometimes. You have to do what is best for your business and employees not just what’s best for mtwngirl.

  11. If this whole thing doesn’t set off your b*llshit detector, I’m sorry, but your brain is just broken.

  12. This is getting railroaded through to approval. If they had a pubic meeting, no way would they get through engineering and traffic in one night. I hope someone rallies and appeals the approval. I like the project, but bring down the scale, provide sufficient parking per the ordinance, address traffic concerns BEYOND that ridiculous circle. And I agree, sure seems like a conflict of interest to have the Mayor involved in a lawsuit involving where Deloitte was going to go vs this project. And, the world has changed over the last 3 months. Is Deloitte even still interested in that much space? Companies and work from home employees have and will continue to reduce the need for large office spaces.
    Heard an interesting story, that there actually isn’t sufficient power supply for this project and it is contingent on the hospital building their own substation??

  13. And BTW Margret, Faith mixed in a few legitimate questions in a mostly derogatory hit piece on why the entire development project should not happen in her opinion because she does not understand (or maybe refuses to recognize) how all of the development has so greatly assisted this town in the last decade. If she had a fair attitude with her questions, I would too.

  14. Hi Margret. Its not just me. The rising home prices and rents speak for themselves don’t they? The continuously crowded bars and restaurants do to no? Again, its simple supply and demand you must understand. People love the development of the town and are moving here to enjoy more of it. New places to shop, new places to eat, new places to drink, new places to hangout (grass spots, urban parks, historic monuments, etc.) and I’m sure if they could, places to work. I would love to walk to work or move to a job here if more companies come as many others would as seen in the steady rise of urban centers near places of business. And finally, no one likes going to the same places every single week in town to do the above, so yes, the more the better.

  15. While Faith asked valid questions, Connor repeated his typical, more people, more business more cars is good rhetoric, when every study and expert has indicated that a Town like Morristown, due to its topography and road system, cannot handle much more of Connor’s favorite things. There comes a point when it becomes impossible to turn things around. There is also a way to compromise in a manner that lets everyone win. Morristown’s best projects were the result of compromise.

  16. lol @ Faith – no, this is great for town. More people, more business, more lifeblood, more energy. Despite you trying to convince yourself not, many people like it. and what glass do you suggest we use since your an expert on that too?

  17. Seems that the M project, a pet project encouraged by the Mayor, has become a town joke and perceived by most residents as a monstrocity. It’s a joke to say that the offiice/retail redevelopment will be “both functional and beautiful.” Unbelievable that Board Chairman described it as one of the better design presentations he’s seen. Here’s another chuckle said by the architect Wang “it forces the architect to respect what is there, what Morristown looks and feels like. You can’t just drop something in like it’s from outer space.”. But Mr. Wang that’s exactly what it looks like or were you Joking or blind? And of all things, the mayor is concerned about injuries to birds (a valid concern. However, according to U. of Cornell Onotholgy “Ornilux Mikado, uses a random “pick-up sticks” pattern of UV-reflecting and UV-absorbing glaze to break up reflections to reduce bird collisions. UV light must be reflected for a bird to see it. To humans, the glass looks clear.”} What glass is being used in this gigantic mostly glass project ? Finally, in the drawing of the M station, Where are ALL the Pedesdrians and Cars using and crossing the proposed wonderful round about? Be honest of the developer to show that. Even the planner said they were working on plans to to make the project appear less MONOLITHIC. This development is terrible joke in so many ways…how did we get here? Follow the money !!!

  18. The administration needs to answer why it approved payment for a consultant to negotiate a “PILOT” tax payer funded abatement for this project.

    Initially, the town and the developers attorney stated there was not going to be any request for a “PILOT” and it was mentioned publicly, multiple times, by town representatives, that a tax-payer funded abatement was off the table.

    Why was this quietly voted on weeks ago, without any substantive debate? The residents of Morristown can not continue to subsidize large scale development, especially in the current climate.

    Responsible development is paramount for the future of the Morristown and the surrounding area.

  19. Jane, not to worry. They will look fine against the old, tired building across the street. Also, women use parking garages.
    Conrad, but what about 2 AM on a Tuesday afternoon?
    Warren, you’re kidding, right?

  20. I support the development of this property, however I am concerned about parking; the town already has a parking issue and this looks like it may make it worse. Also, I am concerned with the circle; during rush hour the light at Park Place will likely have traffic backed up to the circle and then movement through the circle will be at a standstill – congested and uncontrolled. An independent traffic review should be undertaken to understand the impact of replacing the traffic light with a circle.

  21. I’m afraid I think it is quite ugly and nothing like the fine old buildings across the street. I am sad at the further reduction of open air parking in Morristown. Do architects care that many women will not park in parking decks? If there will be retail on the street level, we won’t shop there if we don’t feel safe to park.

  22. Why is it that every picture/graphic of the rotary/circle/roundabout always shows almost no cars? Yes, it looks great as likely an accurate picture of what it will look like at 2am on a Tuesday morning, but let’s get real and show what it will look like/how it will function at weekday rush hours.

  23. Functional and Beautiful… then why does it look like Headquarters Plaza? Ugly and architecturally empty is more like it.

  24. Wow … So as Deloitte is facing laying off and firing employees and we are in the middle of not only COVID19 BUT We have racial injustice going on and all these people care about is destroying our town !

    Maybe I can meet the Mayor and give him a bribe in a coffee cup to knock this off !

  25. What an odd headline. As opposed to “Here’s what architects say M Station will look like in Whippany?”
    Anyway, it looks great!

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