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CORNER TALK WITH CROSSON

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Russ Crosson has submitted early plans to build a small strip mall at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Russ Crosson had reasons to give up on Red Bank’s West Side a long time ago.

Growing up on Chapin Avenue in the ’60s, a period of racial tension and civil unrest, his childhood wasn’t entirely the stuff of warm, fuzzy feelings.

“I used to get beat up almost every day,” he said. “I’d get held against the fence and get my lights punched out. I’d get snowballs shoved down my mouth.”

But some 40 years later, Crosson is still hanging around the West Side, and with plenty of fond memories of the area he grew up in. And it doesn’t appear he’s going anywhere soon.

The 52-year-old building contractor is on track to infuse some life into on one of the most underutilized corners in town: a grassy lot at the intersection of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard, not far from where Crosson was force-fed snowballs as a kid.

crossonscornerAn architect’s concept for a shopping center at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard in Red Bank. The view is to the southwest. (Click to enlarge)

Crosson, who now lives in Rumson and runs his construction business out of an office on Wallace Street, gained informal approval last month from the borough planning board to move to site plans for “Crosson’s Corner,” a two-building strip mall on a piece of property he’s owned for nearly two decades.

“I’m not looking to do the [kind of development] typical of Broad Street. I’m looking to make this a user-friendly use,” he said.

What will end up in the L-shaped center is far from decided. It’s zoned for retail, so Crosson envisions companies like Verizon and Starbucks moving in, and some smaller businesses, like a bagel shop, for example, to follow suit.

And in a stand-alone structure proposed at the southeast corner of the property — the “cornerstone building,” as Crosson calls it — he would love to see a bank.

“The things people need every day,” he said, explaining his vision.

Of course, there’s a long road ahead before a shovel even hits the ground, let alone tenants inking leases.

If Crosson’s site plan is approved, he can move on to architectural and construction drawings. Then there’s the financing process, which can be time-consuming, Crosson said.

There’s also a two-story house on Shrewsbury and his former office, a small brick building on the Drs. Parker side of  the property, that will need to be knocked down, Crosson said. The site is comprised of several lots that Crosson has purchased since 1993.

All in all, he thinks construction could realistically begin in a year or so, though it depends on funding options.

Crosson said that over the last couple years, he’s tossed around ideas for condominiums and senior housing on the property, but said they never really fit. He thinks that with the amount of passing traffic, both by foot and car, a small strip mall is ideal.

And with construction and rent costs down, he thinks now is the time to do it. The alternative would be to leave the grass growing on the corner, he said.

“To go forward with nothing results in nothing,” he said.

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