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RUMSON PLANS TO RAZE FORMER POLICE HQ

rumson-pd-0707101The property will be sold as two building lots, officials say. (Click to enlarge)

By EVAN SOLTAS

With its new municipal complex completed, Rumson plans to demolish its historic Center Street police station and sell the land as two residential lots, borough officials say.

The borough intends to raze the now-vacant station, which has long stood out among its residential neighbors, and sell the land as building lots that conform to residential zoning law, according to Mayor John Ekdahl.

In the process, the town hopes to pocket as much as $400,000 from each, and use the proceeds to pay down debt incurred from relocating police headquarters, officials said.

Plans to raze the former station had emerged early in discussions to construct the new hall. Ekdahl said that the time frame and cost for the building’s demolition will be established by the borough council sometime this year.

The police began occupying the Center Street building, a former AT&T switching station in the heart of a residential area, in the 1960s, but the space has outlived its usefulness, said Ekdahl.

Its layout was poorly suited to the daily needs of the police force, officials said. It didn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and could not affordably be renovated, officials said. The building was also plagued with leaks, the windows and boiler system were inefficient and faulty, and there was no storage space to be found.

Center Street residents, some who had grown attached to the awkward, out-of-place brick structure in their community, were already feeling nostalgic about its demise last week.

“The quaint, old-town cops are no longer,” said Erica LoPresti, who lives across the street from the station. “We welcome our new neighbors, but it won’t ever be the same.”

Patty Shanes, who live a few houses down from the station, said she’s glad the site will find a new use. “I think it’s good to do something with the space instead of letting it sit there,” Shanes said.

Already, at least one developer has had an eye on the property. Several residents told redbankgreen they had been contacted by a builder who asked them if they would support the construction of condominiums in the soon-to-be razed lot. The residents, however, said that the builder apparently dropped his interest after their opposition became evident.

Other homeowners on Center Street, including Amy Kresloff, said that reusing the buildings, rather than razing them, would be a better solution.

“I would prefer that the borough repurposed the space,” Kressloff said. “We as a town could use housing for the elderly, or space for other municipal purposes, and to just tear the building down seems to be a waste to me.”

Ekdahl said that repurposing the building, as well as selling the space as-is, had been considered, but only briefly. “We are guessing that the building would be less valuable if we were to put it up for sale as-is, largely because of the age of the building and the awkward layout issue,” he said.

Zoning issues, as well as the expected community opposition to a business moving into a residential neighborhood, would complicate the sale further, Ekdahl added.

As the housing market soured, Ekdahl said, the borough took 20 percent off its originally intended listing price of five hundred thousand dollars. Even this reduced estimated value, however, is likely too optimistic, said a local branch representative of Diane Turton Realtors who asked not to be identified individually.

A home on a 50-foot by 167-foot lot on Center Street closed for $550,000 in 2009, but had its land assessed for only $242,000. The police building sits on a lot of 100 by 150.

“New construction in the Rumson area is hard to come by, so it may sell for as much as they would like,” he said. “But to me, the $400,000 listing price seems a little too hopeful.”

Borough Administrator Tom Rogers says the proceeds are expected to more than cover the $800,000 in costs the town incurred in moving the police into the new town hall, an expense that was financed through a short-term loan.

redbankgreen summer intern Evan Soltas of Rumson is entering his junior year at Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, where he is a reporter for the Exonian, the campus newspaper.

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