WEST SIDE TO GET PARKING LOOK-AHEAD

menna-danny-murphy-102611Restaurateur Danny Murphy discusses the need for West Side parking with Mayor Pasquale Menna, left, before last week’s borough council meeting. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s West Side appears about to experience a tsunami of new development, if land-use approvals granted by the town are used in the near future.

That’s a big if. The ailing economy has stalled development projects across the U.S., and Red Bank has not been spared.

But a large housing project planned for Monmouth Street near the train station, and two others just blocks away on Bridge –  one of them mixed in with stores and a brew pub – have business owners in the vicinity concerned about a severe parking crunch. And led by a restaurateur, they’ve asked the borough to be proactive in minimizing the adverse impact.

mw-west-side-lofts-20111The West Side Lofts project will have its own parking garage, but won variances for an overall parking shortage. (Click to enlarge)

After years as an eyesore lot, and several aborted attempts at development, a property owned by Amboy Bank on Monmouth Street at West Street was cleared of vacant buildings in August, though construction has not yet begun. The bank has pledged to see through to completion the planned Courtyards at Monmouth project on the site.

At the corner of Monmouth and Bridge, the former Anderson Brothers cold storage facility is nearing the start of work that will transform it into 23 condos and two street-level stores, according to Metrovation principal Chris Cole. A lawsuit had iced the project, and by the time the case was resolved in the developer’s favor, the economy had soured.

The same lawsuit delayed a second Metrovation project, the MW West Side Lofts , which last month won revised-plan approvals for 92 luxury rental apartments as well as street-level retail units, live-and-work artists’ spaces, and a Triumph Brewing Company restaurant.

Throw in the newly opened JBJ Soul Kitchen restaurant on Monmouth Street opposite the Anderson building, and you’ve got the potential for too many cars chasing too few parking spaces, says Danny Murphy, of Danny’s Grill & Wine Bar.

The lofts project is to be built in a horseshoe around Danny’s.

So, armed with large maps and aerial photos, Murphy led a contingent that included representatives of the Two River Theater and the Galleria at Red Bank to last week’s meeting of the borough council to ask that the town get a jump on the issue.

“We need to act now,” Murphy told the council. “In two years, the West Side Lofts open, and we’re going to have hundreds of people coming to the theater and restaurants who don’t know where to go” to park.

Murphy said a ballpark estimate of the parking shortfall was about 150 spaces.

He suggested painting lines on the asphalt designating parking spots along Bridge Avenue, which he said would allow for more cars than at present. He also suggested that the borough consider making a deal with New Jersey Transit for nighttime parking – with improved security lighting – at the train station, and consider buying a lot on Shrewsbury Avenue abutting the railroad tracks for a parking lot.

The property, formerly home to a rental car business, is for sale at $1.9 million, he said.

“There are a lot of different solutions to this problem,” Murphy said. “If we don’t deal with it, it’s going to be a monster.”

First, though, he said, the town has to eliminate the “perception problem” that Red Bank has a parking problem downtown by improving signage pointing visitors to the underutilized East Side lots.

The idea of buying property for parking appeared to be a non-starter with the governing body, but Mayor Pasquale Menna and others praised Murphy’s emphasis on taking a proactive approach.

“Your timing is perfect, to be out in front of this now,” said Councilman Ed Zipprich.

Menna said he would move quickly to appoint a task force of business owners, government officials and others to explore solutions on the West Side.

Meantime, Nancy Adams, executive director of the downtown promotion agency RiverCenter, said that so-called “wayfinding” signs have been ordered for installation downtown.