By JOHN T. WARD
Only, not as far into the ground as initially expected.
Builder Tony Busch Sr. won unanimous borough zoning board approval last week to modify plans ok’d in 2006 for a four-story project dubbed Riverwalk. The changes include eliminating of all retail space at the ground level and replacing it with at-grade parking beneath three stories of residences. The original plan called for subterranean parking garage.
The project could begin going into the ground as early as next spring, except that “there’s no hole to dig,” Busch told redbankgreen.
Busch cited economic challenges in filling new commercial spaces in his plea to abandon the retail component of his plan. It was an argument familiar to zoning board members, who had previously agreed to eliminate retail at the Courtyards at Monmouth, a 57-unit project at Monmouth Street and West Street.
“It’s obvious that the need for the commercial component is not there,” he said. “Retail space is not mortgageable. The banks just laugh at you, because there are no comps.”
In granting its latest approval, the board affirmed an earlier greenlight by the planning board to give Riverwalk’s residents access to the parking area exclusively through the East Side municipal parking lot. The elimination of the retail component means that no vehicles will have direct access to Mechanic Street, and curb cuts there will be eliminated, officials said.
The property is located between the Independent Fire Company house and Cardner’s Barber Shop.
Busch said he hasn’t decided whether to market the structure’s 24 units, ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, as rentals or condominiums. But he said recent sales at the adjoining Metropolitan project, on Wallace Street, have provided “good compareables” and encouragement that the residential real estate market is beginning to emerge from its long trough.
The board also cleared the creation of a rooftop deck usable by Riverwalk’s residents.
In response to a question about the timetable for Siros at Monmouth, a planned 12-apartment complex above stores at Monmouth Street and Pearl Street that the zoning board approved in 2009, Busch said he sold his interest in the project following the death of partner Pat Nulle. Busch’s son-in-law, Antonio Vlahos, is now the principal in the project.