From the Daily Record:
The new towers in Morristown are up, awaiting restaurants and residents.
The New York Jets are ensconced in their shiny new headquarters in Florham Park awaiting the arrival of new playmates from BASF when that company’s latest U.S. headquarters is built.
And in 2009, just 33 single-family house lots were registered with the Morris County Clerk’s Office.
That number of recorded house lots is a record low, according to the Morris County 2009 Activity Report issued recently by the county planning board.
It took 10 years to reach that bottom, the report said, 10 years of land-use restrictions, water-use concerns and an economic slowdown that rivaled the Great Depression and doubled the county’s unemployment rate in a year.
It’s not all gloomy.
“I think our timing is right,” said Mayor John Sheridan. “I think the economy has bottomed out.”
That’s also the opinion of Rutgers University Deans James W. Hughes and Joseph Seneca in a recent report on the state’s economy.
“Real estate development will probably hit its cyclical bottom in 2010,” Hughes and Seneca wrote. They warned “the industry will still continue to be constrained by a lack of demand in its many dimensions, tepid private-sector employment growth, corporate cost-cutting and efficiency efforts, small business stuck in survival mode, stifled household formation, and consumer retrenchment following an era of overconsumption.”
But “even in distressed economic environments,” they said, “new opportunities always emerge.”
No matter how it’s reported, 2009 was a slow year for development in Morris County:
— New preliminary subdivision plans reviews by the county planing board dropped to seven, down from 16 in 2008 and down 58 from 2000.
— The number of new townhome or multi-family units contained in plans before the county board dropped to 243 last year, down from 427 in 2008 and 2,371 in 2000.
— The number of new site plans for commercial development dropped to 81 in 2009, down from 88 in 2008 and from 113 in 2000.
— Thanks only to one Mount Olive subdivision that calls for 232 units did the number of residential building lots contained in new subdivision applications hit 256. Without that one project, the number would have been 22.
“After two years of growth starting in 2002,” the report said, “there has been a slow decline (despite fluctuations in the economy) in new development applications from 2004 to 2009.”
While Morris County has the most vacant office space in the state — 28 million square feet, of which 15 million square feet is considered Class A — Peters said all is not lost. Her agency’s latest newsletter said that more than 1 million square feet of that space has been leased since January, including 677,405 square feet since March.