From M Station to ‘M Lofts’: Morristown council hears pitch for 150 apartments on Spring Street

Architect Dean Marchetto's rendering of proposed 'M Lofts' apartments on Spring Street, looking away from Morris Street. Image courtesy of the architect.
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If Hollywood were making the sequel, it might be called Son of M Station.

The developers of the M Station office project prefer to call their next act M Lofts: A 150-unit, five-story apartment building, next door on Spring Street.

Representatives of SJP Properties and Scotto Properties pitched their concept Thursday to the Morristown council, which doubles as the town’s redevelopment agency. A prior council designated this area as needing redevelopment 20 years ago, and amended that plan in 2008.

These buildings, up to M Station West (under construction) would be replaced by the ‘M Lofts’ apartments, March 14, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We’re looking to do Live, Work and Play. We have the Play and the Work (M Station), and this is the Live. This is the third leg of the stool,” said project Attorney Frank Vitolo.

The apartments would replace an electrical supply building and a pair of old houses, all vacant and owned by Scotto, extending from Spring Place to Bishop Nazery Way, home of Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Thirty of the new units — 20 percent of the total– would be earmarked for affordable housing.

Architect Dean Marchetto’s rendering of proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments on Spring Street, looking towards M Station West on Morris Street. Image courtesy of the architect.

The developers also envision a public walkway to the Whippany River, behind the apartments, if state environmental authorities allow it. Although nearby areas experience flooding, this property is not within a flood zone, according to Mayor Tim Dougherty.

On the other side of Spring Street, the developers propose hacking a small park from an overgrown vacant lot that includes ruins of what town officials believe was Morris County’s first schoolhouse for Black children.

That lot backs against steep slopes that hold up a Presbyterian Church cemetery dating to the Revolution.

This apartment house across from the proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments would be shored up if the apartments are approved. March 14, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The developers also intend to stabilize and preserve a run-down, three-story apartment house near the new traffic roundabout at Spring and Morris streets.

The 2008 redevelopment plan allows up to 325 residential units, a 175-room hotel, and  maximum heights of six stories on Spring and eight on Morris.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY, AND TRAFFIC

While generally receptive to M Lofts, council members voiced concerns about pedestrian safety and traffic.

The suspected ruins of a Black schoolhouse would become a park if ‘M Lofts’ apartments are approved across Spring street. March 14, 2024, photo by Kevin Coughlin

Kids traverse the narrow sidewalk on their way to Morristown High School, said Council President Nathan Umbriac.

And Spring Street often is choked with rush-hour traffic. M Lofts is proposing 165 parking spaces on two lower levels. Driveways on Spring and Nazery would provide access.

A wider sidewalk is contemplated, and project engineers are studying traffic solutions such as converting Bishop Nazery Way from one-way to two-way, Vitolo said.

“The overall traffic impact from the project is relatively minor,” asserted the lawyer. He was the point man for M Station, the Max on Morris apartments, and other major developments in Morristown.

Lines for food distribution at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Morristown, March 7, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Vitolo acknowledged that quiet Nazery Way could become a heavily traveled cut-through if it goes bi-directional. Every Thursday, large crowds gueue there for food distributions by Bethel Church.

The sparsely attended M Lofts presentation, lasting just under an hour, included a 3D model of the Spring Street area from Hoboken architect Dean Marchetto. His Morristown projects include the Metropolitan Lofts on DeHart Street, more apartments at 45 Market St., and the triangular Fox Rothschild law office.

Council President Nathan Umbriac examines model of proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I like the concept. I love the design,” Umbriac said of M Lofts. “I think it’s an appropriate use of a space that’s been vacant for 20-plus years. I look forward to seeing future presentations, and hearing what the public has to say.”

Getting the traffic right will be important, the mayor said. He described the red brick/ black trim design as beautiful, adding, “I love the fact that we have 30 affordables.”

Present plans call for two studios, four one-bedroom apartments, 19 two-bedrooms and five three-bedrooms to be classified as affordable. Proposed amenities include a pickleball court and gym, a two-story lobby, two courtyards, and 28 electric vehicle charging stations.

Architect Dean Marchetto points out details on model of proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments, March 14, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Umbriac posed questions along with council colleagues Steve Pylypchuk, Chris Russo and Robert Iannaccone, who urged the developers to seek input from the town Historic Preservation Commission.

Council Vice President David Silva, Councilwoman Toshiba Foster and Councilwoman Tina Lindsey, whose Second Ward includes the proposed apartments, were absent.

Councilman Steve Pylypchuk questions lawyer and architect for proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments, March 14, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

SJP Properties and Scotto Properties teamed during the pandemic to launch construction of the Valley National Bank headquarters — it opened on Speedwell Avenue last year — and M Station.

The Big Four accounting firm Deloitte moved its New Jersey operations last year to the six-story M Station East, on Morris Street.

Construction of the seven-floor M Station West, future home of pharma giant Sanofi, is scheduled for completion next year. That structure is near the intersection of Morris and Spring streets, where the roundabout was installed in 2023.

Traffic roundabout near M Station West, March 14, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Stonefield, the engineering firm for the Valley National Bank and M Station projects, is doing M Lofts.

An amended Spring Street redevelopment ordinance could be introduced by the council as soon as next month, said town Planner Phil Abramson.

That would trigger a lengthy approvals process for M Lofts, with multiple hearings before the planning board and council, said the town’s redevelopment counsel, John Inglesino.

MORRISTOWN GREEN COVERAGE OF M STATION

Architect Dean Marchetto’s model of proposed ‘M Lofts’ apartments, March 14, 2024. The structure at the bottom of the photo is a fairly new apartment building, The Edge at Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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8 COMMENTS

  1. If you want to see the old electrical supplies building on Spring St preserved, please sign my petition! It’s online at https://chng.it/bjVRDgLfM9

    I am not seeking to prevent the apartment complex – but I do think that when our town relies on its historic interest and charm to attract residents and tourists, it’s ironic that developers are not encouraged to think more imaginatively about how to incorporate a unique building into their plans rather than bulldoze it.

  2. @ Deb R – you really cannot be serious the old electrical building needs to be preserved. Certain things I agree with. Again, confusing old with historic is a serious problem by these “historic” societies.

    And I love history and old neat buildings as much as anyone.

  3. The town needs to start preserving interesting and historic buildings – they are promoting being nominated for “best town to live in the NE” by saying we have “charm and beauty” and simultaneously destroying all the charm in the downtown area in favor of more big-box offices or apartments. The old electrical building needs to be preserved, it is a great design and could easily be incorporated into an imaginatively designed space. I have started a petition to request that the planning committee/council require a design be submitted that preserves that building, let me know if you are willing to sign it and I’ll bring it to you!

  4. Also – again, town should push for some condos and not only apartments. Apartments get sold off usually within 5 years of construction, and tenants can quickly move out to greener pastures. Condo owners would have a long term vested interested in maintaining the building, areas, and town.

  5. Please @British Ace – give us a better idea for the buildings and land there. More comments just with criticism and no solutions.

    I think its a great plan. Should allow 6-7 stories there tbh. A nice pocket park in the place across the street with tables, chairs, maybe a fountain would be awesome.

  6. Keep on voting Dunkin and every square foot of Town will either be a Walsh bar or another Apartment building.

  7. Relatively minor impact to traffic? Are you kidding me? Easy for this lawyer to say that when he doesn’t have to sit in the endless traffic in the area daily.

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