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Ground Broken on Towaco Railway Development

Local and state officials are confident Towaco Crossing will spur economic development for Morris County.

Local , county and state officials were "all aboard" on a project to develop land near the into a bustling business district and saw the beginning stages of their vision come to fruition Wednesday during a groundbreaking ceremony on Towaco Crossing and Rails Steakhouse.

Developers of Towaco Crossing, LLC, invited politicians, relatives and friends to the site where the 18,000-foot restaurant, six retail businesses (taking up 1,200 feet) and six residential units are being built. Speakers of note at the event included state Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (District 26), Morris County Freeholders Tom Mastrangelo and Hank Lyon, Montville Township Mayor Tim Braden and Montville Township Committeeman Jim Sandham. Montville residents Jared Dylan and Zach Matari sang the National Anthem and Anthony Garrett, an architect from Bilow Garrett Group who worked on the project, delivered opening remarks, thanking Project Manager James Stathis for his work.

All of the speakers made it clear in their remarks their hope and confidence that once constructed, Towaco Crossing will become a "destination" for not only Montville residents, but residents from throughout the county.

"Towaco Crossing will not be the end of your commute, it will be a destination and Rails will be a centerpiece," Sandham, who was mayor at the time of the approval of the project, said.

Sandham spoke about the lengthy approval process the developers endured for the project and their several appearances before local land use boards. But he stressed how excited the township is that the development is becoming a reality.

"Today, we are laying the cornerstone of a dream," he said.

Braden said that the township is highly ranked in publications for being a great place to live, but that the development fills a certain void.

"If there is one knock on the town, it's that we do not have a town center," he said.

He said he expects Towaco Crossing to become a sort of community gathering place in the township which does not have a downtown area.

Several officials spoke about what the project means for the economy and the jobs the development will provide in both the construction phase and afterwards. DeCroce said projects like these are imperative to saving New Jersey's economy, but that particularly in Montville, this development could also enhance the quality of life for residents. She described a scenario where a couple may want to see a Broadway show in Manhattan and enjoy a meal at Rails and do some shopping at Towaco Crossing before boarding a train at the Towaco train station.

She also emphasized the importance of small businesses, like the ones that will be housed at the development, for the economy of the state.

"Vibrant and sustainable small businesses are a critical element for our economic recovery here in New Jersey," she said.

Lyon, a Towaco native, said he lives around the corner from the development site and that he will be walking there frequently once the project is complete.

"I think this is great for Towaco and the entire county to bring jobs here, particularly in this economy," he said.

Mastrangelo also spoke of the widespread effect the project will have on the area and said he expects visitors from neighboring towns and counties to come to Towaco and experience all that Montville Township has to offer in the development.

"This is not only great for Montville, this is great for Morris County," he said. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the size of Rails.

Les Le Gear April 26, 2012 at 02:21 PM
It would be great if there were weekend trains to Hoboken and Manhattan.
JR April 26, 2012 at 02:26 PM
That would require two tracks and that doesn't exist on the line that runs through Montville. One way in the morning, one way in the afternoon. No trains after 10pm and no train service in or out of NYC during the day.
poptart April 26, 2012 at 02:30 PM
What about the aquifer? Remember years ago when the plans first came up? Many people were against building all of this including the residential units. When this came up I believe it was about the time there were talks about redistricting for the schools. Instead additions were made. Now, we have the aquifer and our drinking water in jeopardy, residences squished in, traffic, and people hanging around our residential areas. Bad idea. It is nice the way it is!
Justin P. April 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Sounds like a great project for Montville, best wishes
MikeL April 26, 2012 at 04:00 PM
It'll be nice to have something resembling a "Main Street," similar to Madison or Montclair. That stretch of 202 seems so...desolate? I hope this leads to something being done at the corner of 202 and Jacksonville. Anything. As far as trains go, the lack of them west of Montclair State is irrelevant. Outside of major cities, people aren't programmed to take trains anymore, especially not locally.
James P. Page April 26, 2012 at 06:03 PM
202 doesn't intersect with Jacksonville. You must be refering to the intersection on County Road 504 at Jacksonville Road and Bellows Lane near the Goddard School.
john rosellini April 26, 2012 at 06:16 PM
So the project is six apartments, six retail units, and a 110 seat restaurant/bar with another 34 outdoor seats. In return for that the Township Committee entered into an agreement reducing water and sewer connection fees dated May 24, 2011 and signed by Mayor Sandham. This because the developer objected to the calculated connection fees. How many dollars did we give away?? While all this is happenning, our residents on the Plausha Park water system in Towaco are being told they have to foot the bill for water connections and construction to the tune of almost 10k per household.
Wing April 26, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Move to Montclair. We like it quiet in Towaco.
Wing April 26, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Pop....you are correct. They do what they want. Without care for the neighborhood
Dan Grant April 26, 2012 at 10:17 PM
See the devil's in the details as usual. summertime seating is 144 including the outside seating of 34. 6 apartments, six stores. but what is the issue with the sewer and water connection fees. Apparently the developer has more influance than the 60 homes in Towaco who not only aren't getting a break but are also asked to pay for the pipes in the road as well.
Frank Dracman April 26, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Please put in a Starbucks and a Pinkberr!y
Dan Grant April 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Sure, let's put the business that is there out of business. That should help things.
JR April 26, 2012 at 11:49 PM
That road is not Route 202. Rt 202 turns right at the firehouse and then left. This just means more truck traffic and stores that have a problem staying in business because there's not enough traffic. I agree with the other person who wrote if you want a downtown then move to a town that has one. And why aren't the residents who are getting the raw end of the deal with the MUA hiring a lawyer to get the same deal Rails got. It's time we voted in some new people on the Twp committee. Maybe we should look into term limits to get new people involved in local govt.
Tina B April 27, 2012 at 12:53 AM
What business are you talking about Dan?
Tina B April 27, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Everyone is getting off subject. Can't we just be happy for the people who are starting businesses here in Montville? I wish them much success and can't wait to dine in the restaurant and patronize the stores.
Wally April 27, 2012 at 01:22 PM
We are so lucky that this developer is going to build such a unique project-Quaint, Rustic, timberframe buidling -OMG. Clearly they are building something something special that will only enhance our beautiful town. Most developers would be focused on building something utilitarian like every other strip mall in town. This is going to be something very special-did i say that already? I wish them tremendous success. Can't wait for my first Steak - Hurry up already!!! You got to check out their plans. http://www.towacocrossing.com/index.php/plans.
PB April 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I just took a look at the plans - where are the "hoards of people" going to park? I see one rendering with one car that appears to be traveling under a porte cochere.
Wally April 27, 2012 at 04:29 PM
The plans on their website are just the buildings, not the site plan so you wont see the parking lots there. But look at the pictures of the building-Isnt it awesome? I was at some of the town hearings and they have lots of parking allocated. That was a lengthy discussion at the town meetings.
MEK April 27, 2012 at 04:50 PM
"All of the speakers made it clear in their remarks their hope and confidence that once constructed, Towaco Crossing will become a "destination" for not only Montville residents, but residents from throughout the county." Has anyone taken into account that many streets will be burdened by the traffic and more speeding cars? If you are excited about this, then you must not live in this neighborhood.
Tina B April 27, 2012 at 05:10 PM
PB - a plan like this would never have been approved unless there was enough space for on-site parking. It's required not only in Montville but in any township.
PB April 27, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Tina, we're all aware of 'requirements', but waivers are regularly granted for non-conformity, just as there's a 30' height restriction for building in town and yet the published plans are showing a height above that. I'm not taking issue with that, just pointing out that the old axiom "rules are made to be broken" has been wholeheartedly embraced. Wally, the buildings are nice, agreed, but they're not awe-inspiring, award-worthy architectural creations. And even if they were, there are still other issues that have absolutely no bearing on the architectural design. (except that we'll have something pretty to look at while sitting in traffic)
JR April 27, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Of course they're excited. The twp has successfully ensured that none of this traffic impacts Changebridge Road or any of the already built retail space that exists there. This isn't in their backyard.
wally April 27, 2012 at 09:05 PM
they do not care about additional traffic on local roads; never have, never willl, unless it's about a QuickChek. I brought this up years ago on a different matter and they just push you aside. Personally I like the smell of steak!
Dave F April 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I like the smell of steak in the morning... it smells like.... rateables.
Dan Grant April 27, 2012 at 11:14 PM
It is approved, so let's hope for their success. The one thing I know for sure is that there were hearings at which the public could speak. I will say however I am interested in what concessions were made for sewer and water fees while sixty homes less than a mile from there are forced to pay what no one else ever had to pay. I know a lot of people are concerned about "Their traffic" "Their congestion" but it would be nice to see some concern for their neighbors problems and how their neighbors are treated by the Governing Body.
MEK May 17, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Other roads do exist, not just Changebridge. Whitehall, Pine Brook, Barney, Two Bridges, Main,Jacksonville, Waugaw, etc. These roads all need to be taken into account. Cars speed through these roads to begin with.
Will T June 06, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Lot of "glass half empty" people in Montville. If we stop building we decay. New is good, change is good. If you live in a house, on a road you should not complain about improvements; if you live in a teepee in Towaco and read by candlelight you have every right to complain. Me I hope to enjoy a nice buffalo burger at Rails that someone else killed and cooked, I will however be happy to share a smoke from your peace pipe in your teepee. :)
JR June 09, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I've been in town over 20 years and I don't think a steak house is what the town needed to prevent "decay" as you so eloquently put it. What side of town do you live on? By and large, people for this restaurant live in Pine Brook or Montville and not in the Towaco section. There are plenty of towns that create a "business" area and then leave the rest to residential. Our town seems to need to create downtowns where there aren't any based on the notion that if you build it they will come. The township committee went on and on about the master plan and the "draw" of the train station for commuters. I won't repeat myself, you can look to earlier posts to see what I think about that.
JR June 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Not only do other roads need to be taken into consideration, but when turning right out of the restaurant to get back to Route 202 every car is going to have to go through a dangerous curve into an area where the road is barely large enough for a car to pass through and there is a cement barrier dividing the road to hold up the railroad tressle. Let's see: restaurant + bar + dangerous road and drunk drivers = bad accidents.
JR June 09, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Let's see, they tore down the general store on the corner of Route 202 when the Quick Check opened in what is now the Real Estate office next to the post office and also because there wasn't enough traffic. Then the strip mall the Quick Check is in was built and the Quick Check immediately moved to where there was more traffic flow. Next, there used to be stores exactly where the restaurant is going. They closed and were torn down years ago because there wasn't enough traffic to keep them open. This "special" mall is going to be an eyesoar in a few years when all the stores go out of business because there isn't enough traffic to generate enough sales to keep them open. There is no need for anyone to "drive by" this strip mall since the majority of the traffic turns onto Route 202 at the Fire House.

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