WHERE’D THE LOVE GO?

The former home of Love Lane Tuxedos is one of downtown Red Bank’s most persistent large vacancies. (Click to enlarge)

By MIKE BARON

Where’s the love for the old Love Lane building?

The prominent storefront on West Front Street, with its distinctive retro signage, has remained stubbornly vacant for eight years, and the exterior is showing its age.

Now, amid  many signs of resurgence on the block, the address is starting to stand out as an eyesore, neighbors say.

Love Lane Tuxedos, which occupied the property for three decades, relocated to 66 Broad Street in 2004. Frank Cannarozzo of Holmdel bought the structure in June, 2007 for $1.75 million, paying nearly a million dollars more than the seller, 17 Broad Street LLC, paid just three years earlier, Monmouth County records indicate. He also took out a $1.435 million mortgage.

Then the financial crisis hit. An art gallery that was said to be planned for the building never materialized.

Public records show that PNC Bank began foreclosure proceedings on the property in July, 2009, but the status of that action is unclear. A call to Dilworth Paxson LLP, a Cherry Hill law firm representing PNC in the foreclosure process, wasn’t returned.

Attempts to reach Cannarozzo were also unsuccessful.

Sitar Company has a listing on the building now, and it’s being offered for sale at a “price reduced” $850,000. There’s also the option to lease all or part of the 6,200-square-foot structure, which Sitar says has “been gutted and is ready for construction.” The first floor features 3,500 SF and 14-foot ceilings.

The property also comes with “approved plans for renovation and expansion (to 7,100 square feet) for retail use,” according to Sitar, which adds that the addition of a third floor is possible.

But people familiar with the building say it is rife with problems, including termite damage, a dirt-floor basement and a need for costly upgrades to meet fire code and other requirements.

Meanwhile, the Love Lane structure appears more unloved than ever, a drag on a strip of West Front Street that has come back strongly in recent months, with new businesses joining mainstays Front Street Trattoria, Wayne’s Market, Fixx and the Downtown nightclub

Newcomers include Jonathan Erdelyi, a 30-year-old national biking champion who recently rolled out Red Bicycle Studio at 27 West Front, and Lucky Break Billiards and Café, at 14 West Front. In the works is Jr’s West End, the Long Branch late-night hamburger and sandwich restaurant that plans to expand into the former home of Zuleyka’s Kitchen at 17 West Front.

Harry Whittom, a manager at Wayne’s, Love Lane’s neighbor at 21 Front Street, said things are mostly quiet next door.

“You see a couple of people going in and out of there from time to time but not a whole lot of activity,” he said. “My feeling is the building probably needs a lot of work inside.”

Asked what business he’d like to see established in the spot, Whittom was at a loss, noting it was hard to picture any new venture setting up shop given the building’s current state.

“I don’t know what would work there now,” he said. “What we don’t need is another Italian restaurant or jewelry store.”

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