IN RED BANK, MAKING A LOT OF A LITTLE

Long the home of a car dealership and later approved for an office building, the parcel is now the site of a valet-only parking lot. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After 15 years as a vacant eyesore, a property at a gateway to Red Bank has been transformed into a spiffy new… parking lot.

Serving the Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior citizens’ luxury high-rise on Riverside Avenue, and accessible only to its valet drivers, the parking lot is the first of a long line of development ideas for the site to be completed.

The sorta-triangular one-acre lot at West Front Street and Riverside Avenue was home to a car dealership for half a century, beginning in the 1940s. Schwartz Mazda general manager Jon Schwartz tells redbankgreen the business later tried luring both McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s to the site, without success.

“It would’ve been a good spot for them,” he says of Trader Joe’s. “They run small stores. Perfect location for their clientele.” (Trader Joe’s opened its first store in the area in Shrewsbury last March.)

Schwartz sold the site to the PRC Group and relocated to Shrewsbury in 1997. Eight years later, PRC won approval for an office building on the site. But it never saw the light of day.

Dubbed Red Bank Corporate Plaza II, the three-story structure was to have been a companion to a complex built on the opposite side of West Front Street that now houses numerous offices as well as Pazzo MMX restaurant. But the plan lay dormant after a collapse in the real estate market.

In 2009, the borough zoning board approved Springpoint Senior Living‘s proposal for  a 98-car, secure-access lot reserved for Atrium residents and their guests. Their cars are to be parked and retrieved by valets following a specified clockwise route dictated by the board to mitigate its impact on traffic.

According to a fact sheet from Springpoint, which is also building a six-story addition to it existing 12-story structure, improvements at the parking lot include berms with decorative fencing, a small sitting area and extensive landscaping.

“The lot looks good,” said car dealer Schwartz.

Historian Randall Gabrielan has some information on the neighborhood and photos from Dorn’s Classic Images in his “Red Bank in the Twentieth Century,” which can be paged through online at Google Books.