North Park Place update: Morristown solicits redevelopers; owner sues Lakewood builder alleging breach of $57M deal

North Park Place, Dec. 17, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Morristown on Monday invited builders to submit proposals for re-developing vacant storefronts along North Park Place, prime frontage of the historic Morristown Green.

The property owner, meanwhile, has shelved a lawsuit against the town — and sued a Lakewood company for allegedly breaching a 2022 agreement to buy the storefronts, along with empty buildings on both sides of Washington Street, for $57 million.

They are the latest moves in a real estate chess match involving the forlorn centerpiece of an otherwise-thriving downtown.

Century 21, Black Friday 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Interested parties have until July 30, 2024, to submit to the town details about their team, design concept and game plan for 3.2 acres stretching from the former Century 21 department store at the edge of Speedwell Avenue, up North Park Place, and around the corner onto Washington Street.

Morristown’s “dynamic and vibrant” mixed-use North Park Place Redevelopment Plan allows up to 160 residential units and a maximum height of five stories, the town’s announcement notes.

“We are eager to partner with innovative developers who share our vision for a thriving downtown that offers a mix of residential, commercial, and public spaces. This project will enrich the vibrancy of our community and create a lasting impact for residents and visitors alike,” Mayor and Planning Board member Tim Dougherty said in a statement.

Requirements of this “Request for Qualifications and Proposals” are on the town website. Any questions must be submitted in writing by June 28, 2024.


Some background:

Back in December, the town council declared 11 of Dave Brown’s properties near the Green as an “area in need of redevelopment,” and threatened to condemn these holdings — some of them vacant for years–if he does not fill them.

Brown responded in January by suing the town. He disputed officials’ claims that the defunct Century 21 and his other buildings are neglected and “blighted.”

Last week, all parties dismissed that suit “without prejudice,” meaning Brown can re-file it in the future.

Days earlier, he sued subsidiaries of Accurate Builders & Developers of Lakewood for allegedly welshing on a $57 million promise to buy everything.

What a difference a year makes.

Jack Klugmann, president of Accurate Builders & Developers, addresses Morristown council, June 8, 2023. His lawyer, Frank Vitolo is sitting behind him. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Accurate President Jack Klugmann appeared last June before the council to pitch plans for 54 apartments and ground floor retail in former law offices owned by Brown at 2-10 Washington St. Those offices, diagonally across from North Park Place, have sat empty since 2010.

Accurate looked solid: It was completing the Morris Marketplace strip mall in Morris Township, and had committed to CitiSquare Newark, a multi-year plan to erect 4,200 apartments at the former Newark Bears ballpark.

But in legal papers filed last month by law firm Fox Rothschild, Brown’s companies are demanding a jury trial and damages for Accurate’s alleged failure in Morristown to make good on an April 12, 2022, purchase agreement.

The suit further alleges Accurate’s subsidiaries failed to meet six extensions of “due diligence” deadlines, or make monthly payments from a $3 million escrow fund that Accurate was supposed to establish in return for Brown extending the closing date by one year to April 26, 2024.

(A total of $7.5 million in Accurate escrow deposits was stipulated by Brown, according to the lawsuit.)

Citing two missed payments from the escrow account, Brown’s limited liability companies terminated the sale agreement on March 26, 2024.

But like the old song says, breaking up is hard to do.

Accurate’s subsidiaries, May Morristown Green LLC and May Morristown Washington LLC, have refused to say goodbye. They rejected Brown’s termination notice on March 29, the suit claims.

Brown and Klugmann could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday evening.

Attorney Jeffrey Pollock, who represents Brown’s 1 North Park LLC, said Tuesday that the lawsuit against (Accurate subsidiary) May Morristown Green is to enforce a mutually agreed-upon escrow agreement that was intended to protect his client in case the deal did not close.

“Defendant has failed to close. We are simply enforcing the contract,” Pollock said via email.

Morristown Green (no relation to any of the entities) will update this story with any additional responses.

This story has been updated with a comment from Fox Rothschild attorney Jeffrey Pollock.

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  1. I really hope they fast-track this project. That area has been neglected for far too long. I hope that whatever replaces those drab buildings and storefronts isn’t another blocky, 2000s-style apartment building (or condo building) with a bar or bank on the street level. Even though I am no longer a fan of Target, a downtown Target might work, a food hall, a beer garden, a mix of upscale and discount retails, some unique restaurants, etc.
    And I have long wondered why a new hotel isn’t in the works after the Market Street proposal didn’t work out. Since that time there are thousands more employees downtown and it’s hard to believe that the one downtown hotel is sufficient. I am no expert on this stuff, but I think that sufficient hotel space would be necessary for fully redeveloping a downtown core.

  2. Morristown is very beautiful, I think, with The Green, and Foote’s Pond, and the library and tree growth. There are many attractions, that’s for sure.
    The town, however, I think, is tremendously hard and crowded to drive through. So, I only drive now before and after commuter hours. People with phones plastered to their ears crossing anywhere, bicyclists whipping through lights and weaving, not willing to behave like a vehicle.
    People hooked to cell phones or podcasts crossing anywhere. Where did friendly eye contact go, anyway? Can’t compete with ear pods. I’m petrified of hitting someone if I drive.
    I’m a substitute crossing guard and every time I’m doing that job, people whiz through red lights, talking on phones, oblivious to red lights. Madness, but it’s accepted.

    So, it’s a visually beautiful town through direct efforts of the Morristown Partnership mostly and The Green Trustees. But when will Morristown’s designation as a town shift into a city designation, and is all the redevelopment/development, translating into reduced property taxes? I once was a huge bar/restaurant patron while working/living in town but I’m older now, it’s lost its appeal, and who does the town attract now?
    The town should attract night life of course. However, in being here now for 34 years, it’s just harder to get around, perilous as walkers, bicyclists, scooters, pet sitters do whatever they choose in crossing roads.
    The only thing I can think of left to say is that I hope people who come here to eat or go to a club are great tippers and respect the police and road rules.

  3. Interesting. Seems like a 180 vs the Mayor doing backdoor deals with the builders of the Deloitte building which he just cost us millions by losing that lawsuit. A padded cup of coffee may still get his buddies the contract…lets wait and see…