Several years after first being described by the town as a "stagnant" and "unproductive" piece of land, a 56,000-square-foot former junkyard behind houses on Morris Street has been assigned a redeveloper.
Town Council, acting as the redevelopment entity in Morristown, approved Leona Developers LLC as the redeveloper for the property at 185 Morris St., block 3701, lot 11, Thursday night after hearing a presentation by members of Jonathan Rose Companies, the town's redevelopment planner and former Morristown Mayor Jay Delaney, the attorney representing the redevelopers.
Phil Abramson, with Jonathan Rose Companies, started the meeting noting something that was likely on more than one person's mind. "This is probably the first non-Speedwell Redevelopment project we have worked on with you," he said.
Indeed, much of the redevelopment talk over the past several years has focused on that project, after going through several iterations over the course of a decade.
However, Mayor Tim Dougherty noted it was no less an important project for the town. "It's going to be a catalyst for more development [toward the train station,]" he said. "It will start a nice domino effect in that area."
While much of the land behind the houses on the south side of Morris Street, and along Ford Avenue, has been officially designated in need of redevelopment since 2007, the parcel approved Feb. 9 comprises 1.282 acres, in what had been declared a brownfield, which has been remediated for some time, the mayor said.
Described by Abramson as a "flag lot," a narrow portion of the property is visible from the road, with the larger portion–the flag–behind the fronting properties. Daniel Hernandez, also with Jonathan Rose Companies, acknowledged the challenges with such a piece of land. "It's an odd site," he said.
Over the past year, the planners and Leona Developers–comprised of Peter Cippolini and Joseph LoBozzo, the latter of which developed the South Street building now home to , have worked on preliminary specs for about a year. Early informal concepts included up to 60 townhouse units across three buildings, which had been deemed by the Zoning Board of Adjustment as too many.
The preliminary plan this week–the one ultimately approved by Town Council–would see half that, 30 townhouses, across three units with 10 units in each, Abramson said. He noted the scale and context of those units would be similar to what is already in that area.
Delaney, who served as mayor in Morristown from 1999 to 2005–and was mayor when the Origin Thai 2 building was built–noted the local roots of both he and his clients.
"We care about this community and want to go first class," he said. "Once we're designated, the real work begins."
Council President Rebecca Feldman said the project team "has made tremendous strides.
"I hope we have a project that is a model for the rest of this site," she said.