Video: How 39 apartments will look next to Morristown’s Vail Mansion

Brick detail of proposed apartments at 126-136 South St., June 24, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler
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By Marion Filler

 

If innovative presentations could sway a planning board, the 3D animation for the proposed apartment complex at 126-136 South Street next to the Vail Mansion in Morristown should have been a slam dunk on Thursday.

Not quite.

After a lengthy pitch by project architect Robert Cogan that also included several new renderings, planning board members and Mayor Tim Dougherty indicated that existing plans are far from a done deal.

South Street Morristown Holdings LLC seeks approvals for a four-story, L-shaped, 39-apartment building, with retail, next to the historic Vail Mansion.

Video: Architect Robert Cogan’s animation of apartments/retail proposed next to the Vail Mansion. Screen capture by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:

Project attorney Frank Vitolo prefaced Cogan’s testimony by informing the board that as of last week, a discussion with Vail Mansion residents had eased concerns about the architecture.

“So Frank,” said Mayor Dougherty, “does that mean I shouldn’t make comments about the architecture?”

“We know you’re going to make comments about the architecture, Mr. Mayor,” said Vitolo, who appears frequently before the board.

Vitolo may have been thinking of Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the most significant architects of the twentieth century, who summed it up for all time when he said: “God is in the details.”

Rear view of proposed apartments at 126-136 South St., June 24, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

Cogan described the design as “soft modern,” citing three shades of brick, double-height boxed bay windows, and cast stone elements.

“Much of this was in direct dialog with the Vail Mansion people who made reference to the townhomes on Maple and Miller. We borrowed some of the colors of the brick from there and some of the cast stone elements in horizontal banding and window heads.”

Front view of proposed apartments at 126-136 South St., June 24, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

He emphasized the previous removal of a 25-by-44 foot, two-story mass of units from the rear left of the building, reducing the overall length of the structure by 25 feet.

The 165-foot expanse facing the Vail oval has been re-imagined in three colors of brick to make the façade “more familiar and friendly.”

Another revision is a 10-foot setback of third floor rooftop units on the back and side of the building.

Cogan was particularly proud of the near invisibility of the mechanical components on the flat roof of the project. They are set back in such a way that “the closer you get to the building when in the Vail oval or in the driveway, that 4th floor disappears. You will feel like you’re next to a three-story building.”

A simulation of the view from end units in the Vail Mansion was intended to assuage objections from unhappy residents.

Video 2: The animated ‘flyover’ continues. Screen capture by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:

Board Planner Greer Patras commented on the need for landscaping on the large rear deck that directly faces the Vail Mansion, and observed that the plantings in the simulation are a projection of five year growth–implying that Vail residents will not see the benefits for some time.

She requested clarification about the height measurement of the new construction compared to that of the Vail Mansion, as well as other buildings in the area. Patras also asked for samples of the suggested brick colors, particularly the rose tone variety, and noted that the variation in cast stone cornice designs was somewhat fussy.

Morristown planning board hears virtual pitch for proposed apartments at 126-136 South St., June 24, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

Mayor Dougherty wanted more information on fiber concrete board and where it can be seen locally. He commented on the disparity between the detail on the elevation facing the Vail oval and other elevations that are less articulated. He also noted potential problems with trash removal from the trash room along an exterior walkway.

At the very last moment, board Chairman Joe Stanley opened a potential can of worms by asking if any consideration had been given to integrating the former Susi’s Salon into the plan. The developers have pledged to preserve that structure, which has a long, rich history.

“The floor heights are different, we can’t connect through to it, it’s functionally different,” replied Cogan. He said the existing canopy could warrant further investigation.

Everyone agreed many more questions must be addressed. Architect Cogan will return on July 22, 2021, for another session.

Side view of proposed apartments at 126-136 South St., June 24, 2021. Screenshot by Marion Filler

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Planners and historians would agree that the key to Morristown’s success when County seats were failing all over New Jersey was returning residents to downtown. When downtown workers returned home out of Two each night and weekends, our crime rate soared and local business failed. It took the efforts of the Parking Authority and the formation of the Morristown Partnership to make the Town livable for everyone again.

  2. When you mention the phrase non-conforming are you implying that the building is not built according to zoning for the area? If a building is built according to zoning standards it is considered conforming. If you mean it just doesn’t fit in architecturally with the surrounding buildings, it is a bit ridiculous to expect all buildings to match as they were built at the same time. Old and new building styles can coexist, as there are examples of melding architectural styles all over the world. Sounds to me that you’re afraid of too many new people moving into the area. Parking should be free in this town to be honest by the way.

  3. The parking authority has done
    A great job in destroying the business district, no one is going to pay and be inconvenienced by using a parking garage. Retail needs surface parking free and convenient. Madison is a good example of what works. As far as 40 Park the Epsteins former site. Putting residential in the heart of the business district was another parking authority fopa. This should have been luxury office, it would have helped retail in the BUSINESS district.

  4. If Margret had her way, downtown would look like it did in the 1970s and ’80s: Drab, empty storefronts, colonial this, colonial that, and devoid of people. Kind of like North Park Place is today expanded to all of downtown. Geo. Washington would be ashamed to have his name all over the place.

    Like it or not Morristown is an urban center, a small city, and is the urban hub of northwest NJ. Sure, Parsippany has the most people in the area, but it is boring suburbia with nothing but highways, strip malls, office parks, and low-density housing. There is no “there,” there. Have you been to downtown Parsippany? No? That’s because there isn’t one.

    Look at Morristown with it’s thriving downtown, its airport, hospitals, government offices, performing arts centers, bars, restaurants, etc. What other community in the region has anything like this? None. No contest.

    A lot of people don’t like change, I get that, but you can’t stop it.

    On another note, M Station is a great project, and I hope they work on bringing more corporations downtown. And please, for the love of Mike, do something with N. Park Place!

  5. Right. No valid responses to my points. And I get my information about you from every comment you make on here and that is it.

  6. Will no longer attempt to answer such misinformation, when there are many worthwhile things to focus on. There are many bartenders in Morristown, who must be laughing at your assumptions. Can’t imagine where you get your information and at this point does it really matter.

  7. Margret – really? I just asked you publicly what you supported, in addition to naming projects and establishments (all bars) I know you did not support, and you had no response besides Cattano Ave. And you mention Epsteins location, but I also know you are against all the bars on that street which thousands of residents enjoy every week.

    “reasonable compromises to redevelop Morristown in a way that is economically beneficial to the Town ” – so M station which you are against as well, will generated 4x the tax revenue of the old stripmall not to mention provide millions of dollars of business to local establishments in town. How is your view on this economically beneficial? Or was the old strip mall historic?

  8. Again Connor reveals his lack of understanding by making claims about what I have or have not supported since 1974. Little of which is true.

  9. Good point JT about the parking garage.. Where is it??? Covid delays aside, it should have started construction by now

  10. There – not a single large project, especially any bar, that Margret supported in town. Just wanted all of the public to hear. And what again is the delay in that parking garage behind Grasshopper, and what is the cost of that consultants test being run for it to assess post pandemic fullness of that? Lets see if the taxpayers find such a study useful with their money.

    And thanks Karen for again bringing up how important our last names are instead of objectively making an argument. Once again, Kevin can see my last name in my email if needed and wrote an entire article on the last name requirement debate. Matt is correct.

  11. If you want to bring up the size and mass of the project overwhelming everything else around it, how can you not mention the gigantic addition to MPAC. How could that have possibly passed the historic, size and mass test? Also, the condos, bar/restaurant and public parking lot on the Vail property don’t exactly satisfy any of the historical purists either.

  12. I am not going to be ridiculed online (or then even in person) if I give my last name. People in this world are crazy. I am not changing my tune that development is good for this town. This proposal (while larger than I feel it should be), keep the house on south st, knocks down the dilapidated structure and knocks down an all brick former law office that has no historical significance at all

  13. As a commissioner of the Parking Authority, I have been involved in a number of efforts to provide reasonable compromises to redevelop Morristown in a way that is economically beneficial to the Town without totally destroying its character. Note that the MPA is one of the only Authorities that is not subsidized by the tax payers and actually contributes many benefits to the Town. Cattano Ave. is an example of working with a developer in a way that the developer, the MPA and Morristown all gained from the parking deck added to that street. When Epstein’s closed, it was the Parking Authority that stepped in to preserve that entire corner with its variety of using while providing needed housing in this important part of Town. Good development is the result of considering many factors besides the potential profit for the developer, who often pays far to much for a property in anticipation of denser development and greater profit.
    Sadly, many developers attempt to use the Authority for their own purposes , while the Authority was created to serve the public.

  14. Thank you Margaret Brady for pointing out that some individuals voice their opinions but aren’t willing to identify themselves!

  15. “Historic” – yes like the dilapidated building along this stretch now. How nice that looks doesn’t it Margret? Almost as nice as the strip mall that was there before M Station started. Or the old terribly boring house that was in place of Homestead.

    Again let me publicly ask you for any new readers here – what major developments in the town have you been for in the last decade? Is there a single bar in town you actually like?

  16. Fail to see how this design conforms or even integrates with this part of South Street, one of the most historic areas in Morristown. Odd that a newer also rather nonconforming structure, two blocks away were referenced, when the Church and the library were ignored. Not surprised that the historic commission did not approve this, especially since its size and mass would overwhelm everything else around it.

    Also not surprised that Matt and Jeff with no last names, like it.

  17. Definitely a way better design than last time. They nailed it with this design. The landscape should be more private away from the Vail Mansion building. It needs more privacy. The feeling for exclusivity is missing a bit.

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