MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County Commissioner Deputy Director Christine Myers and Commissioner Stephen H. Shaw joined Morris Habitat for Humanity, Randolph Township officials, and a host of other dignitaries and supporters for a dedication ceremony to welcome thirteen families into their new homes this week at the Crossings at Bennett Avenue.
“It’s not just a home these families are opening the door to, but it’s the opportunity of our schools, businesses, clubs… Congratulations to all the families who now have the opportunity to live, work, and become a part of Morris County. Welcome home,” stated Deputy Director Myers.
Blair Schleicher Wilson, chief executive officer of Morris Habitat for Humanity, presided over the event held Thursday at the Randolph site, where speakers included U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, Senator Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, Randolph Mayor Lou Nisivoccia and Tom Hayes, Director of Customer and Community Relations for New Jersey Natural Gas Company (NJNG). Randolph Township Managers Gregory Poff and Stephen Mountain were also in attendance. They were recognized for contributing to the project and Randolph Councilmembers Mark H. Forstenhausler, Christine Carey, and Joe Hathaway.
Commissioner Shaw praised Morris Habitat for Humanity and Randolph Township for the undertaking, reflecting on the progress and challenges overcome in turning a former E.A. Porter industrial site on the border of Victory Gardens into a picturesque neighborhood of 25 townhomes that will enhance the surrounding residential community.
“The date was October 18, 2021, and it was the groundbreaking for this historic project, the largest in Habitat’s 38-year history. It involved a redevelopment that would have been challenging even for a contractor like myself, and this was accomplished by volunteers—what an amazing accomplishment! Randolph’s leadership also deserves credit for the vision and foresight they had to donate this property to (Morris) Habitat,” said Shaw.
He continued, “So here we are, 4,000 volunteers and 18,000 hours later, a huge achievement for (Morris) Habitat and the families moving into these affordable, energy-efficient homes. I want to thank all the volunteers, donors, sponsors, and staff. You are all the heart and soul of this organization, and you have shown what can be done when we all work together towards a common goal.”
The dedication ceremony of the 13 units and a community center marked the completion of phase 1 of the project on Bennett Avenue, which will provide affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income families. The 25 units planned consist of seven 3-bedroom homes, fourteen 2-bedroom homes, and four 1-bedroom homes built across four buildings. First-floor condominiums are ADA-accessible, and all buildings are ENERGY STAR certified for energy efficiency, EPA WaterSense certified for water efficiency, and EPA Indoor AirPlus certified for health protection. Residents will have access to a picnic area, play area, and a bike path to stores and restaurants on South Salem Street.
The 2.5-acre property was acquired by Randolph Township in 2008 through tax foreclosure and was donated to Morris Habitat. The township was responsible for environmental remediation, demolition of existing structures, site design, approvals, and permitting. The Randolph Township Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Community Funding Grant and HUD Funding SHOP Grant, and additional funding from business sponsors, including Bayer, Lakeland Bank, GAF, and NJNG, are funding the project. Local businesses, organizations, and individuals have donated construction materials and professional services.
Morris Habitat for Humanity hosts a fundraising effort for the project that allows donors to buy bricks – every 4-by-8 inches and costs $125 – to create the pathways between the residential buildings into the new community. At their Senior Service Day in June 2021, the Mountain Lakes High School Class of 2021 raised over $10,000, and the Randolph High School Brick-by-Brick Campaign raised $7,500 in 2022. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Buy a Brick fundraising campaign can purchase their personalized brick on the Morris Habitat for Humanity website.
To date, 3,991 volunteers have donated 18,126 hours to help build the homes.