GallerialotWith a parking deck topped by two floors of offices, Galleria Park would connect to the existing building via a two-level footbridge. Below, a view of the proposed structure from West Front Street. (Click to enlarge)

The nation's economy may be stalled and the real estate market on life support, but the owners of the Galleria

Red Bank apparently see opportunity in their asphalt-covered soil.

GalleriagaragenorthThey've submitted plans to the Red Bank planning department for a structure to be built at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and West Front Street that would nearly double the footprint of the 120,000-square-foot shopping and office mecca.

On that 2.7-acre parcel — a parking lot that is home to the Galleria-sponsored Farmers' Market in summer and autumn — would rise a 4.5-level, 102,000-square-foot parking garage topped by a 39,000-square-foot, two-story office building. The structure would connect to the existing Galleria by an enclosed footbridge.

Dubbed 'Galleria Park,' the project is likely to set off alarms among motorists whose commute through the often-congested intersection of Shrewsbury Avenue and West Front Street is often slowed to a crawl.

It may also displease those who'd like to see more 'park' and less building at the corner. The developers are seeking variances that would put the structure close to the sidewalks on two sides.

GalleriagaragewestThe Shrewsbury Avenue side of the proposed project.

The plan replaces a little-noticed application filed last May and later withdrawn to build the proposed project as well as a 55,000-square-foot office building, to be called 'River Village,' on the opposite side of Shrewsbury Avenue, at the site of the former Hance Davis coal and feed store. That portion of the project was to have included a 190-stall parking deck.

The pending plan shows no development plans for the Hance Davis property, which is now used as a parking lot by the Galleria and commuters.

Local attorney Richard McOmber, whose offices is on Shrewsbury Avenue, complained last year in letters to the planning department that the combined projects would worsen traffic when they, as well as the Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters and Red Bank Corporate Plaza buildings on West Front, became fully leased.

McOmber tells redbankgreen that he's withholding comment on the current plan until after borough engineers at T&M Associates of Middletown have completed a review that borough officials said is now underway.

Galleria Park would provide 409 parking spots, the plans indicate. The existing lot has 74 spots.

The plan requires numerous variances. For one, vertical parking garages aren't permitted in the zone in which the property sits. The developers also propose to build the structure closer to sidewalks than setback regulations call for, and to provide open space equal to just 6.7 percent of the total area. While the developers note that's an improvement from the  3.8 percent now provided at the site, regulations call for 15 percent.

Documents on file indicate the plan has won Monmouth County Planning Board approval, contingent on a number of roadway improvements being made.

During construction, the developers propose to use an elaborate valet parking system involving three valet stations to facilitate the parking and return of cars for shoppers, diners and office workers at the Galleria.

The plans make no mention of the future of the Farmers Market, a popular Sunday destination for shoppers with a taste for locally grown vegetables and other products. But the Galleria website says the 2009 season will open as usual on Mother's Day and run through November 22.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for April 20.

George Sourlis, a principal in E.T. Galleria LLC, the project's owner, declined comment on the plan, other than to say that "hopefully, we'll get favorable feedback." He referred all questions to attorney Martin McGann, who did not immediately return a call Thursday.

Sourlis's mother, Elaine, is listed as the majority owner of E.T. Galleria. George Sourlis and siblings Jim and Dorothy Whitehouse are also shareholders, according to a filing with the borough.

The Galleria is comprised of a series of red brick factory buildings erected beginning more than a century ago by uniform magnate Sigmund Eisner, great grandfather of former Disney chairman Michael Eisner.

Elaine Sourlis and her late husband, Ted, transformed the structure into a shopping and office complex beginning about 20 years ago.

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