sb mrs rooney 040314The Ocean Avenue lot where Frances Rooney, seen above in April, has sold hot dogs from a cart since 1977 will become Rooney Plaza, below.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


rooney plaza 081214Mrs. Rooney selling hot dogs indoors?

To Sea Brighters and other passersby, the idea that Frances Rooney, the hardy weiner merchant who sometimes defies the pleas of her children not to go out in arctic weather, would no longer ply her trade in the elements might seem unnatural.

But with the planning board’s approval Tuesday night of a four-story, mixed-used structure on her gravel lot at Ocean Avenue and Surf Street, it may happen, she told redbankgreen.

rooney plaza 080214The project, at the corner of Surf Street, features first floor retail and seven apartments above. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Rooney said she hadn’t made up her mind if she’ll be a tenant of her own building, which is expected to take about a year to complete. “You never know what the future holds,” she said.

Dubbed Rooney Plaza – and owned by Rooney, her daughter Fran Rooney Raffetto and Fran’s husband, Lou Raffetto – the project calls for 3,300 square feet of retail space on the first floor and seven residences above.

Taking into account the fact that the property is at the lowest – and flood-prone – point in town, according to borough engineer Jacki Flor, the retail level will be elevated, requiring shoppers to walk stairs or take a “half-stop” elevator out back, said architect Jim Monteforte. The elevator will also be used by residential tenants.

No stores have yet been signed to retail space, which may be used by a single business or divided up among several, said Monteforte.

A house owned by Rooney and the Raffettos on an adjoining Surf Street lot would be razed to create seven parking stalls. The elimination of curb cuts on Surf and Ocean would allow for six new parking on-street parking spaces –  four of them angled slots on Ocean – that would be available to residents and all other users, planners for the applicant testified.

One, James Kennedy of Red Bank, told the board that no decision has yet been made on whether the angled slots would be require reverse-angle parking, which was instituted recently on the next block, in front of the Sea Bright Supermarket, and is envisioned for use elsewhere in the downtown.

William Cherry, who owns the adjoining Ocean Avenue property, objected to the project, contending that it was too close to the lot lines, didn’t have an adequate plan for trash removal, and would worsen a parking shortage in the area.

“it’s going to create a major problem for the neighbors and the residents,” he said.

Board members, however, were more than satisfied that variances were justified, and praised the Rooneys for including parking spaces, something most downtown businesses can’t offer.

Rooney Plaza would be the first significant scratch-built project downtown since Hurricane Sandy devastated the district in October, 2012, planning board Chairman Lance ‘Chick’ Cunningham said after the unanimous board vote in favor of the plan.

Lou Raffetto said he hoped to complete the building in 2015, the 50th anniversary of his mother-in-law’s arrival in town from Jersey City. She’s been operating the cart since 1977, she told redbankgreen in 2009.