A preliminary sketch of what the Chestnut Hill Hotel’s Fareway project might look like. (Rendering courtesy of Morrissey Design)

by Paula M. Riley

James Morrissey, together with his creative team and visionary clients, has become a huge force behind Chestnut Hill’s recent renaissance.

In his contemporary office in Flourtown, the owner of Morrissey Design LLC describes with great enthusiasm many local projects he had the privilege to work on. These include the Chestnut Hill Hotel, Market at the Fareway, as well as retailers Indigo Schuy, Bone Appetite and Green Design.

His greatest impact on the Chestnut Hill community perhaps will be the Fareway, a community gathering space between the Chestnut Hill Hotel and Market buildings. Morrissey’s goal in designing the Fareway was to connect the indoor experience of the Hotel, Market and Chestnut Hill Grille with the outdoor experience of the open space. Ultimately, the Fareway provides multiple opportunities for visitors, residents, shoppers and employees to experience meaningful moments for engagement, he said.

Connecting the Hotel and Market with Germantown Avenue, the Fareway is designed as a large piazza featuring benches, table seating, a water feature, and landscaping.

“This is a multi-functional space that creates a sense of commerce and community coming together,” Morrissey said.

The final design of the Fareway continues to evolve. As part of this effort, the parking lot will be reconfigured to accommodate a community gathering space atmosphere

Ron and Abby Pete own the Fareway property, the hotel, Market and adjacent building hosting the post office, Kings Garden and hotel rooms. Morrissey’s designs update and unify the hotel, the post office and carriage house through façade improvements and decorative features, such as the curved railing design of its second-floor balcony.

“He (Morrissey) is a really talented, innovative guy who thinks outside-the-box,” said Ron Pete. “He has a good perspective on Chestnut Hill as well.”

Formerly known as the Chestnut Hill Farm Market, the Market at the Fareway is getting more than just a facelift. Morrissey Design worked closely with the Petes to develop a new grid layout for Market. Vendor booths are based on an 8-foot-by-8-foot module so Market and its vendors can grow or rearrange for maximum flexibility.

Describing Market as a “modern, general store,” Morrissey explained that his team created different design concepts for the market stalls so that vendors could select their own style, but each is complementary to other Market stalls. Reclaimed building materials are used in all the designs, providing a timeworn feel and creating a nice blend of new and old.

“Morrissey Design harmoniously integrated the beautiful tradition aesthetic of the Chestnut Hill commercial district with the contemporary attitude of the Chestnut Hill shopper,” said Eileen Reilly, E. Vitalize Consulting and former recruiter. “Through Morrissey’s careful planning, there was no sacrificing modern-day style in this historic Philadelphia neighborhood,” (The Petes have hired Reilly as a consultant to the Market renovation.)

Morrissey says that in working with the Petes and all his clients he tries to carefully listen, figure out what key moments they are looking for and hones in on these.

When Steve and Schuy Nunn created Indigo Schuy selling women’s athletic apparel and accessories, it was their first retail venture and they knew what they were trying to accomplish.

“Morrissey Design helped us to achieve a clean, fresh look for our boutique,” Schuy Nunn said.

The final product is Indigo Schuy’s clean, white fixtures, built-in storage and shades of blue and indigo, designed to create an organized, relaxing retail environment.

When the Chestnut Hill Business Association approached him for assistance, Morrissey provided pro bono interior design services to assist with the leasing of the location where Green Design boutique is at located.

“They needed someone to help them (potential tenants) visualize what could be done with the space,” Morrissey said. “I am very happy to help.”

Consistent with the products sold at Green Design, the interior uses environmentally conscious materials such as recycled, repurposed and reclaimed finishes. Combined with open shelving, wood floors,and big light fixtures, the boutique has a free, airy feel, yet a level of sophistication as well.

Morrissey Design’s footprint goes well beyond Chestnut Hill. In Fort Washington, its design work includes McGerk’s new outside deck and the interior of Scoogie’s Classic Italian Restaurant and in Wayne they it Cilantro, a Mexican restaurant with a sophisticated lime and white color scheme.

In Center City, the Morrissey team is engaged with Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners. LLC in the adaptive reuse of the facility consolidating the Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit (SVU), Department of Human Services (DHS) Sexual Abuse Investigations Unit, Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, and staff from the District Attorney’s Office.

In describing these, as well as his Chestnut Hill projects, Morrissey speaks of his team as “a think tank of great ideas,” Morrissey believes that his experience living abroad and working for a variety of design firms have offered him a unique perspective from which to approach projects. Ultimately though, it’s his team that makes the difference. He describes them as incredibly talented architects and designers and works hard to create a work atmosphere where that encourages a collaborative and collective approach.

“They are a great group,” Ron Pete said. “They are so bright and creative and they are very flexible. They can design whatever the client would like.”