It’s 7-Eleven Redux at the Morristown planning board

Revised plans for new 7-Eleven in Morristown, April 29, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler
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By Marion Filler

Before 7-Eleven can relocate to the Exxon station at Morris and Pine streets, it will take another trip to the drawing board– and the planning board.

Revised plans got a generally favorable response at Thursday’s virtual board meeting, scheduled specially for this project.

But some members thought the building’s general appearance still was too horizontal and “squat.” And so 7-Eleven’s team will make a third try, on May 27, 2021.

Suggestions were made to either raise or elongate the windows or increase the overall height of the building by a foot or two. The color and location of the Azek trim was undecided. The number of steps in parapets, proposed to replace a flat roof, also was unresolved.

Revised proposal for 7-Eleven in Morristown, April 29, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

Mayor Tim Dougherty noted that Thursday was the first time town Planner Phil Abramson had seen the three-dimensional rendering, and he should have more time to review the details.

“I don’t like things coming up without our professionals looking at it,” Dougherty said. Citing all the changes under consideration, Dougherty wanted another chance for the board to see the final version before voting on the project.

While fast food emporiums are not known for cutting-edge architecture, the board made it clear at meetings in February and March that a flat brick box with spandrel glass windows and pop-in brick panels would not fly.

Company attorney Jason Truvel described Thursday’s updated design as “an unique 7-Eleven for the area.”

The flat roof was replaced with a three-stepped parapet, to be repeated in some form at the rear entrance.  At its highest point, the structure will be 27 feet, instead of the original 32 feet. The second story is gone, and the setback has been increased.

Snap-in 4-by-8-foot brick panels will be replaced with hand-laid brick, in decorative courses meant to enhance the texture of the building.

Plans call for the previously flat front to have four-inch wide Azek trim wrapping around the three entrance bays and windows. It will project  two-inches off the brick surface, to add contrast to the brick exterior.

All windows will have clear glazing, with no vision-obscuring spandrel glass. Provisions also have been made for charging stations and turnarounds in the parking area. A large 7-Eleven sign facing Pine Street will be reduced.

Morristown virtual special planning board hearing for 7-Eleven, April 29, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

Abramson, the planner, was encouraged by the changes.

“Modern buildings don’t put emphasis on classic storefront design,” Abramson said. Citing  The Artist Baker café on Cattano Avenue “as one of the most beautiful in Morristown,” he hoped that “great glazing and great proportions” at 7-Eleven will set a precedent for the inevitable redevelopment of Morris Street–a mashup of styles and setbacks.

Although there is no historical reference to follow, Abramson asserted “this type of building with a step parapet could have been located on this property, and that’s why we thought it was a good balance.”

The reception to the new rendering was largely positive. Board member Debra Gottlesben, who grew up in the neighborhood, was “happy with the way this has evolved.”

New board member Andrea Lekberg, owner of The Artist Baker, said she too “feels good about this project.”

The 7-Eleven proposal is a relocation of the franchise at the corner of Morris and Spring streets, where the convenience store must make way for the M Station office redevelopment.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. The word “study” does not always mean a paid for practice to determine a direction.

    The “study” referred to could just be a process weighing out all considerations before determining a course of action.

  2. I doubt that any type of parking or traffic study that tries to predict the return from Covid would be worth the paper its printed on. This was a once in a century event. There are no corollaries or any similar predictive data that could possibly determine driver/shopper/diner behavior post pandemic.

  3. @ Margret – sure, but what does that mean? Are we waiting on a study? Are we assuming post pandemic parking at the garage may reduce the garage by a full parking level (i.e. >20%) ?

    IMO, I can virtually guarantee the parking needs will be the same or greater in a few months than it was in early 2020, and the study would be considered wasted time and money.

  4. Connor and Marr, The reality of the situation is that in order for he MPA to remain self sustaining and not subsidized by the the taxpayers of Morristown, they need to continue to be realistic about future funding sources and needs. Attention to details, prevents future mistakes.

  5. @ mtwngrl – agree w/Matt – we can live/work/play here to walk/uber- and also want a new parking garage. Ive used this coming garage in many of my posts as a reason for not stopping development as well when parking concerns were brought up.

    And your point about material costs going up during this pandemic is quite valid and would’ve been a good reason for the delay to note. However, M. Brady stated previously the holdup is that they are conducting a study to determine if parking demand will return to pre-pandemic levels, which I think is a ridiculous reason for the delay and waste of money. (See my comment to her about whether she truly believes parking demand will suffer by a full garage level of cars for which no reply was given)

  6. We can want people to live/work/play here to walk/uber- and also want a new parking garage that is badly needed.. So what?

  7. There is a current shortage of materials and labor, causing both costs to skyrocket. With the current lower parking demand, maybe they actually have someone intelligent doing their budgeting and holding off until the market stabilizes. Those bonds may not cover as much today.
    It is interesting tho, so many opinions on other projects justifying a lack of parking by the fact that people want to live and work in town, use uber, etc. Ironic people are now pushing for the Authority to build a garage??

  8. This seems like another example of the arbitrary and inconsistent decision process regarding development in town. A few years ago, Dunkin Donuts was approved to build a nondescript 3 story building across from the existing 7-11. Just a block away, this 7-11 can’t have 2 stories, when it is literally next door to both 2 and 3 story buildings. Plus, they want it to resemble something that could have been on the property from some undefined period in the past. If not for inconsistencies, there would be no consistency to the planning and approval process.

  9. The financing for the garage was in place prior to the pandemic. My guess is they were waiting for the pandemic to be over– but I would think that this time would have been a good one to build it..

  10. @Matt & Connor –
    The Parking Authority is not waiting for any study, the garage most likely will be built once the proper financing ( bonds ) and repayment plan is structured and in place. Also M-Station will have it’s own garage which will probably have a public parking component.

    As with most businesses, as COVID restrictions ease and people return to work or continue to wok from home will also weigh in the decision and timeline.

  11. Margret – are we still awaiting a lengthy and I’m sure costly study to tell us activity levels in town will return to pre-pandemic levels to build that parking garage behind Dunkin?

  12. That’s better than the lack of consideration of the impact on the neighborhoods of other approved projects that were approved in recent years. At least its seems that the intensely dense McDonnell project approved opposite Dunkin Donuts just prior to his legal problems seems to have been halted.

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