What Real Estate Slowdown?

April 6th, 2008 8:07 AM by

In an article by Robert Williams from the Star Ledger... This is GOOD NEWS!

What real estate slowdown?

by Robert E. Williams III / The Star-Ledger
Sunday April 06, 2008, 6:30 AM

Chain link fences are being stretched around cleared patches of land, and bright yellow construction vehicles rumble throughout town.

After years of languishing, some of the long-anticipated building projects in Morristown are moving forward, spurred by recent hearing and approvals at municipal meetings.

Near the train station, the long-planned transit village project, slated to bring more than 200 apartments near the train station, is well on its way.

At the Green, work on the 250 units that help make up the town's biggest redevelopment project, at the Epstein's site, has progressed far enough that a local sales office is expected to open next month.

And off South Street, developers have nearly completed the renovation of luxury condos at the Vail Mansion. All but four of 36 units have been sold.

Despite the slow real estate market, developers are still interested in projects that would attract tenants.

"Developers are recognizing it's time to come back to the small cities with transportation," said Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. "You are still having growth in New York, but it's just a little cheaper to live here than there."

The projects hit delays last year due to a variety of reasons, including labor union issues, lawsuits and a major developer's declaration of bankruptcy. Those problems have since been resolved.

Most of the redevelopment projects are being handled by the Roseland Property Co. and Woodmont Properties in a joint development partnership. Work is already well under way on several of their high-profile projects, including the transit village project, renovation of Vail Mansion and the Epstein's redevelopment.

In January, the NJ Transit parking lot at the Morristown train station was closed to start construction on the transit village, known as the Highlands at Morristown Station. It is one of the largest and most elaborate of 19 transit village projects in New Jersey.

Construction crews have cleared the 3-acre property at Morris Street and Lafayette Avenue, where the $75 million project is slated to bring 217 luxury apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space in a five-story structure.

The parking lot, the first phase of the project, is due to be completed in 15 months. The building is scheduled to be completed in spring 2010.

The developers have completed renovations at Vail Mansion, the former home of AT&T executive Alfred Vail, turning the South Street structure into 36 luxury condominiums. Thirty-two of the units, which range from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and are priced between $650,000 to $1.3 million, already are occupied. The total transformation of the residential portion, budgeted at $24 million, is expected to be completed this year.

Developers recently held their first homeowners association meeting with the new residents, most of them couples from around the region, according to Debra Tantleff, vice president of development for Roseland Properties Co.

"They have been complimentary of the town and having the greatest front lawn in the state," said Tantleff, referring to the great lawn on the property, which developers plan to landscape this spring.

Construction also continues at the former site of the Epstein's department store at the Green, where a seven-story residential building known as 40 Park Place has been planned. Developers expect sales to start this spring for the first group of the 73 condominium units and penthouses.

Other projects at the site include The Metropolitan at 40 Park, a 130-unit rental building, and The Lofts at 40 Park, a 30-unit condominium building. Developers have drafted plans to build an additional 18 townhomes near McCulloch Avenue.

The site also will house The Shoppes on the Green, 70,000 square feet of retail space in the buildings, as well as an 800-car parking garage, scheduled to open this spring, and the office building, which expects tenants this summer.

Down the street from the Epstein's site, the same development partnership recently completed the construction of nine townhomes on DeHart Street.

The town recently approved a scaled-down plan for Pulte Homes, consisting of 66 residential units where six 19th-century buildings once stood on Ann and Court streets. Seventeen of the units are earmarked for affordable housing. Construction is expected to start in the fall.

On Coal and Center streets, developers are finalizing plans for the redevelopment of a 10-acre site, constructing three buildings providing 162 residential units and 15,000 square feet of retail space. If the revision is approved by the planning board, a contract between town officials and the developers could be in place in September, Cresitello said.


Three other redevelopment projects are still inching toward construction. Developers for the Speedwell Avenue redevelopment continue to hold meetings with the redevelopment agency. The project, as envisioned, would bring an estimated 600 homes to Morristown.

Plans for Spring Street, which will add 240 units to the town, are undergoing a revision to expand the redevelopment zone and lower the height of the proposed structures.

A proposal for the mixed-used property for a firehouse and residential units on Lafayette Avenue, which would bring 100 units, are also undergoing review, with a new development company partnering with the original developer.

Tantleff said this type of development will continue in Morristown despite a downturn in the overall housing market, because of the public's desire to live there.

"There is so much potential in the town that is being tapped into, as far as redevelopment areas," she said. "There are so many things built on the culture and character of the existing town. There's a huge demand from people young and old."

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Posted by on April 6th, 2008 8:07 AM



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