Morristown, NJ, City Council to Hear Zoning Request for Self-Storage Mixed-Use Project

Update 5/24/18 – Hampshire presented a revamped design for its proposed self-storage project on Morris Street to the city council this week, but the changes don’t appear to be enough to flip residential opposition. The new design includes a 6 percent reduction in capacity to 98,000 square feet and an 800-square-foot addition to the art studio. A new façade designed by New Jersey architect Dean Marchetto includes brick-loft styling, according to the source.

Marchetto appeared at the meeting and told the council the structure would be comparable to his other work in the city, including cube-like apartments and the triangular Fox Rothschild building near the town green.

Though some residents like the design, they are dead set against the use. “Please do not build a storage facility and pretend it is a cultural asset,” resident Linda Carrington told the council.

“I don’t care how you dress it up. It’s the scale, it’s the size, it’s the use,” argued former councilmember Brady.

Vitolo noted the public presentation was his seventh during the last two year and indicated the next move is up to the city council to accept or reject the proposal.


2/14/18 – Morristown residents remained strongly opposed to Hampshire’s Morris Street self-storage proposal during a city council meeting on Feb. 8. After more than two hours of debate, the council adjourned the meeting without voting on the zoning amendment the developer needs to move forward on the project, according to the source.

Objections included the potential for increased late-night traffic and noise from the outdoor performance plaza included in the plan. Some also criticized the architectural renderings presented to the council for not including signage, surrounding homes and topography to better depict how the storage facility would fit into the community, the source reported.

Werder told the council the local arts scene would flourish from the dedicated studio spaces. While councilmember Alison Deeb and some residents liked that aspect of the proposal, others questioned whether 50 artists could share 10 spaces of 160 square feet each.

Former councilmember Margaret Brady argued the storage facility would hurt tourism by distracting visitors on their way to nearby historical venues. A community park, fire station or additional housing would be a more appropriate use for the site, she said.

Though Hampshire officials indicated they want to continue working with the community to alleviate or accommodate concerns, Iannaccone indicated he’s seen enough. “The proposed use is inappropriate for the location,” he told the source. “I think the public was correct with its concerns and position on the appropriateness of the use and scale of the proposed storage facility.”

It’s not clear when the council might further review the proposal.


 2/8/18 – The controversial mixed-use project proposed for Morristown will be presented to the town council tonight. The hearing had been delayed for more than a year due to “scheduling issues,” according to Abramson.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, who hasn’t publicly endorsed or opposed the project, said he didn’t request delaying a vote on the project during last year’s election. “My election wouldn’t have mattered either way,” he said, adding it’s up the applicant to “make his case.”

Hampshire, which has cleaned up the site and demolished the existing structure, requested the meeting to find out what kind of redevelopment the council wants for the property, Abramson said. “What can be expected is an indicator one way or another on how they would look to proceed,” he said. “The developer would like to know the council’s reaction to the proposal and whether it makes sense to prepare something for them to vote on.”

Councilmembers, who are also the town’s redevelopment authority, haven’t received any new information about the project from the developer or town officials, according to councilmember Robert Iannaccone, whose First Ward includes the proposed site. “They didn’t show us anything. Even the agenda is not clear what they’re coming for,” he said, noting he’s not inclined to support the project based on public input during the workshops. “I basically vote the way my constituents ask me to vote.”

The council has also had turnover, with councilmember Michelle Duprée Harris leaving after an unsuccessful mayoral bid. She was replaced last month by David Silva.

Frank Vitolo, the attorney representing the developer, hopes to show how the project will benefit the community. “We’re there to present our plan for the project, but also to field questions from the council and the public, explain why it’s a terrific fit for Morristown, and how it comports with the redevelopment plan and the town master plan,” he said.


1/24/17 – Plans for the self-storage building that will be part of the Morris Street Redevelopment project have reduced the number of floors from five to four after residents expressed concern it would be an eyesore. The adjustment was made public during a recent workshop in which representatives from SNS Architects & Engineers PC and planning firm Topology were present, according to the source.

In addition to self-storage and the art studio, a “performance center” will be part of the project, the source reported. While the art studio will cater to local artists looking for affordable space in which to work, the spaces will be surrounded by windows allowing the public to view projects as they are created, Katie Dempsey, director of placement for Morris Arts, told the workshop audience.

Town officials are still accepting comments from the public.


7/18/16 – A large group of residents participated in a public workshop last week to learn about the Morristown project that would feature self-storage and art space. Members of a neighborhood association in the nearby Franklin Corners townhome community told city officials they were concerned the facility would be an eyesore for more than 70 apartments under development on Hill Street, according to the source.

Similarly, former council member Margret Brady said an artist rendering of the facility “looked to me as though a huge box had landed from outer space.”

Other residents argued the development didn’t meet the town’s plans to make this particular stretch of Morris Street into a residential gateway to the community.

As proposed, zoning revisions would need to be passed to accommodate the project, since self-storage isn’t among the permitted uses for the area and building height is limited to three stories, Abramson said.

Residents spoke favorably about the art-space component to the project. “There were a number of people who showed up who learned a lot of new information about the plans,” Werder told the source. “We heard that people wished that the artist studio was a much larger part of the program for the new building.”

It’s too early in the approval process to know if the art space will become a larger portion of the project, Werder said.


7/12/16 – Hampshire Properties, an affiliate of real estate investment firm Hampshire Real Estate Cos., has proposed a mixed-use development for Morristown, N.J., that would feature self-storage and rentable art space. The five-story structure at 175 Morris St. would include 100,000 square feet of self-storage and a 2,600-square-foot art facility operated by Morris Arts, a nonprofit agency, according to the source.

If approved, the storage facility would be managed by real estate investment trust Extra Space Storage Inc. and rebranded under the company’s operating name, town planner Phil Abramson told the source.

Under the plan, Morris Arts would rent space to artists as well as hold performances and exhibitions on patio space to increase pedestrian traffic in the area, which is near railroad tracks and several recently developed apartments. “This will bring some life down there,” Tom Werder, executive director of Morris Arts, told the source.

The project would replace the former Milelli’s Auto Service and Towing and extend onto an adjacent property that abuts the train tracks. Morris Street 2015 LLC acquired both parcels last year for $5 million.

The property also once housed a heating-oil distributor. Environmental issues makes the ground unsuitable for residential development, Abramson said.

A public workshop to discuss the project was scheduled for Monday. The proposal was inspired by Mana Contemporary, a Jersey City, N.J., warehouse that was converted into a popular arts venue, as well as other self-storage projects that have incorporated art space, according to Abramson.

Hampshire Real Estate has a diversified investment platform that includes self-storage, industrial, medical, office and retail properties primarily in Northern New Jersey. The company has a “strategic alliance” with Extra Space, which has been involved in other Hampshire developments. The partnership includes the REIT acquiring a 50 percent interest in a 78,000-square-foot self-storage facility in Bloomfield, N.J., according to the Hampshire website.

Sources:
Hampshire Real Estate, Website
MorristownGreen.com, Can Art Space, Storage Center Transform Morris Street? Public Workshop, July 11
MorristownGreen.com, Proposed Storage Center Draws Huge Crowd to Morristown Town Hall
Tap into Morristown, Morristown Proposes Self-Storage Center for Morris Street
MorristownGreen.com, Morristown Storage Project Coming Out of Mothballs, Feb. 8
MorristownGreen.com, Residents Try to Send Storage Project Packing at Morristown Council Meeting
MorristownGreen.com, Morristown Residents Try to Deep-Six Self-Storage, Again

 

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