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.
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.
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.