RED BANK: PLANNERS SPAR OVER FACADES

joe romanowski 111513 2A plan by Joe Romanowski to remove the vestibule of his new Goldtinker store on Broad Street won approval. So did Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza’s request to permanently enclose seasonal seating area at the Galleria, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

tommy's 042114The  Red Bank planning board approved a restaurant expansion, a downtown facade change and the renovation of what Mayor Pasquale Menna called a “cancerous eyesore” Monday night.

Along the way were some unusual flashes of passion among board members.

love lane 041312The former Love Lane building on West Front Street is to be renovated. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

• The meeting began with a routine bit of business: a vote on a resolution to formalize the terms of the board’s approval, on March 17, of plan by Nima Nili to transform 23-25 West Front Street into a retail furniture store and interior decorating business, with offices on the second floor and a roof deck.

The building has been vacant and deteriorating for a decade, since Love Lane Tuxedos moved out, though its name still graces the facade.

Menna, himself a board member, asked if the board, in his absence, had obtained guarantees of a start date for construction on the project. Told that it had not, Menna upbraided the board, saying that while he was happy it had approved the project, without assurances, “it’s going to be a cancerous eyesore for another 10 years.”

Nili was not present. He and his partners, who have transformed 12 Broad Street into a fully-tenanted, four-story hive of brokerages and the Alex and Ani jewelry store, acquired the West Front Street space a year ago.

• Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza, in the Galleria building on Bridge Avenue, won approval for an expansion. The 3,400-square-foot restaurant proposed permanently enclosing a 525-square-foot outdoor seating area facing the parking lot on the Shrewsbury Avenue side of the building, where the Galleria’s owners, the Sourlis family, have a five-year-old approval for a parking garage.

Board member and Councilman Ed Zipprich cast the lone “no” vote on the expansion, without comment. Afterward, he told redbankgreen he objected to the restaurant encroaching on the parking lot, and said the new space would leave diners facing a parking structure just 35 feet away, if it is ever built.

The Sourlises have cited an inability to attract tenants to the structure, which would be topped by two floors of offices, for the project remaining dormant.

• Jeweler Joe Romanowski’s proposal for a new storefront at 24 Broad Street generated the longest and most heated argument. Romanowski’s plan calls for the removal of a glass-sided vestibule and the relocation of the facade for his nearly completed Goldtinker store. The face of the store, which would be contiguous with the second-floor face, would feature dark stone with a center door flanked by two 18-inch-by-18-inch windows.

Board member Barbara Boas raised concerns about the small size of the windows, which Romanowski said was dictated by security and insurance concerns. Zipprich voted no on the proposal after learning that the plan had not been reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission, though the building is within the downtown historic district.

Afterward, board members engaged in a spirited debate over their role. Zipprich said it was important to protect the “historical integrity” of the downtown, but Linda Cohen, who owns the Eye Design store, expressed concern that putting up roadblocks was scaring away potential merchants.

“I think we really have to encourage merchandising beyond restaurants,” she said. While some new stores may not be fully appealing visually, “empty stores look even less appealing if we chase these merchants out of town” and “continue to cling to what was good 40 years ago,”she said.

• A resolution to memorialize the board’s approval of a planned Walgreens store on Broad Street was tabled because of late-arriving docuuments. Developer Mark Steinberg, who has not commented on a redbankgreen report that Walgreens was reconsidering whether to build the store, was not present.

•  The developer of an independent pharmacy at 141-143 Broad Street, the former home of the Jade Garden restaurant, won approval for a minor change concerning rear entrances on the building. Attorney Philip San Filippo said two adjoining retail spaces are now being marketed as a single space of 2,014 square feet, though no tenant has been signed. The pharmacy is now under construction.