Skip to content

A town square for an unsquare town

redbankgreen

Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

RED BANK: GREEN SPACE RISES IN OLD CHURCH

211-broad-102114-2-500x375-3545628The underside of the church roof, above, will remain exposed to the new second floor and mezzanine. Below, the church’s steeple also will be retained.  (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

211-broad-102114-1-220x165-5881037The pews and organ are gone. But touches of what made the former First Church of Christ, Scientist in Red Bank a place of worship remain as the 62-year-old structure is transformed into an office building with the decidedly secular name of “211 Broad Street.”

The giant clerestory windows have been preserved, though their arched tops are now at eye-level on a second floor erected in what had been open sanctuary space. The original wood dentil molding has been retained. And there’s a small round window, hidden for years behind the organ, that will deliver light and views previously available only to the occasional maintenance worker.

Most prominently, there’s the steeple. For passersby, its storybook patina-green spire will continue to soar toward the heavens – though by this time next year, some office occupant who gazes upward will be able to get an eyeful of its guts.

“It’s like architectural sculpture,” developer Bob Silver, of Bravitas Group, said of the intricate lacing of timbers. “We never even considered taking it down.”

211-broad-102114-3-500x375-2387896The original window arches that once soared above the congregation are at eye-level on the new second floor. Bravitas partners Bob Silver and Jay Schweppe, below, specialize in adaptive reuse of churches and industrial buildings. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

singer-schweppe-1021141-220x165-7858729For Bravitas, which specializes in the environmentally friendly repurposing of buildings that have outlived their original uses, the church project is a bit of deja vu. The firm won borough zoning board approval for the conversion in April, after members of the dwindling congregation asked Bravitas to do what it had done with a Christian Science church in Montclair: buy their property and remake it into something they might have a place in.

So Bravitas paid the church $1 million for the 1.5-acre property, according to Monmouth County records. Now, under the plan, the developer is turning a 55-year-old, one-story church annex into a two-story, 50-seat house of worship and Sunday school that the congregation will rent. It will have its own entrances.

“We allow them to stay in their house,” said Silver, and though there’s rent to pay, “they have the capital from the sale.”

The meat of the project, however, is the transformation of church space into about 14,000 square feet of idiosyncratic office spaces for an estimated 70 workers, who are expected to begin moving in starting next July.

At the moment, the down-to-the bones look of the interior would be only barely recognizable to even the most devoted churchgoer.

Gone, for starters, is the ceiling that concealed the giant wood trusses. The raw underside of the roof is to remain exposed, though Silver and Bravitas partner Jay Schweppe are considering one prospective tenant’s request that the section above her work area be painted.

“We’re kind of the anti-drop-ceiling developers,” said Silver.

New, energy-efficient materials make some choices possible on the project, for which Bravitas hopes to win LEED-certification from the United States Green Building Council.

“Originally, we thought we’d have to Sheetrock over” the roof’s underside to conceal insulation, Silver said. “But the slate roof is shot, so we’ll insulate between the sheathing and the new shingles,” which won’t be slate and, in keeping with the all-green approach to the project, will reflect the sun’s heat away from the surface, he said.

Co-designed by Sionas Architecture and RHG Design, the project also calls for reusing timbers, which are being made into office furniture, including the table for the shared conference room. The original glass from the arched windows, which is being replaced with energy-efficient glazing, will be transformed into artwork that lines a first-floor hallway.

The recycling began even before Bravitas took title. The congregation sold pews to another church as well as to individuals – redbankgreen‘s publisher bought one, for $200, we should note. The doors went to “a guy building a house locally,” and the organ was sold to another church, Silver said.

Even the waste wood and concrete is being recycled, he said, pointing to a giant grinding machine in the parking lot.

“We recycle everything,” said Silver. “Part of the adaptive reuse is making sure we salvage materials and keep as much as possible out of the landfills.”

Silver and Schweppe have been doing this kind of thing for about seven years. Both residents of Montclair, they met after Silver lost his job on Wall Street – and went looking for suitably cool office space in which to start anew. Unable to find it, he set out to create it.

His first project, a former auto parts shop, had a prior history as maker of brass plaques, so he dubbed it BrassWorks, embellishing the space with touches from the original factory. Even in a down economy, the place filled up with tenants immediately, said Silver.

Through an architect, he met Schweppe, who’d recently sold his successful residential 42-year-old real estate brokerage. They’ve since gone on to convert an old gas station to a home for a karate studio and an insurance broker; a former Katherin Gibs secretarial school building; a Victorian home, which they turned into offices; and the Montclair church, now called Hillside Square. It, too, still has its original steeple.

And “with all our properties in Montclair, we don’t have a single inch of vacancy,” said Schweppe. “We never do.”

Schweppe and Silver are hoping for the same reception in Red Bank, where they believe there are few options for small business owners who want custom, green workspace in a complex with its own parking lot and electrical vehicle charging stations – and are willing to pay a premium for it.

How much? Base prices, Silver said, will be at or near the top of the market, though he declined to specify a dollar value. “Somebody might want ebony wood floors and exotic marble countertops,” whereas another client might want a spartan bullpen, he said. “That all has to be factored in.”

Silver and Schweppe are hoping 211 is accepted not only for what it is, but for what it’s not.

“I think most developers would have torn down the church and densed it up with residential,” said Silver, noting that a zoning border cuts through the property, allowing homes on one side.

Silver said Bravitas is also using local tradespeople and professionals as much as possible. Among them: Jorge Hernandez, a specialist in refurbishing church steeples, who Silver hired after he read about him in a redbankgreen feature about the restoration of the Christ Church Episcopal cupola in Shrewsbury.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
Partyline
FEELING SNAPPY
      Snapping Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs this time of year and are a common site along the Swimming River waterfr ...
TUB TIME
RED BANK: A sparrow waits for the next available dirt tub while two others take their Sunday baths. (Click for video.)
CHECK IT OUT
A bench outside the Red Bank Public Library provided a serene view of our beautiful Navesink River Monday evening.
WAYWARD SLIM JIM
Anybody lose a Slim Jim? A “Sweet Mild O’ Mine” flavor Slim Jim was seen left unattended on this mailbox on Mechanic Stree ...
YAPPY TOGETHER
RED BANK: Look for this cutie pie, named Sacramento, at Yappy Hour on Broadwalk Saturday. He's looking for a new home.
YELLOW RAINCOAT DAY
On a rainy May morning, the only golden sight on Broad Street this morning were the matching raincoats of Eileen and her dog Benny.
STOP. JUST STOP.
RED BANK: For those who don't get the meaning of a stop sign, crossing guard Diane Johnson amplifies the message with some colorful outfits. ...
RECORDS SKIP INTO TOWN
RED BANK: Devotees of vinyl records expected to drop needle at Broad and Mechanic Saturday. Here's why.
Feline fortunes on Monmouth Street
Christopher Russell and feline pal Princess take in some fresh air on a warm May night Thursday in the doorway of Gina’s Psychic Bouti ...
GOING UP?
RED BANK: Public Library will be closed Friday for the start of elevator construction. (Click for more.)
TREEBIRTH
RED BANK: Replacement of nine trees gets underway on South Street, where a wholesale removal angered residents last September. (Click for mo ...
RIVERSIDE FLOW
New Jersey Flow Arts brings together jugglers, poi spinners, hoopers and more weekly in Riverside Gardens Park.
Honeybee swarm carted away
Beekeeper Tanya Ptak of Ptak’s Apiary inspects a swarm of honeybees that chose a flower pot in the courtyard of Red Bank Primary Schoo ...
BELOVED POISONED DOG PHOTO SURFACES
   
THREE ON TOUR
RED BANK: Three borough sites will participate in a weekend of self-guided tours of 52 historic locations in Monmouth County May 4 & 5.
VOLUNTEERS GET INTO THE WEEDS
Toting plastic trash bags, 51 volunteers conducted a walking litter cleanup on Red Bank's West Side Saturday.
“IT’S A PARTY AT WAWA!”
You wish you could vibe like Brian, who lives on the other side of Hubbard’s Bridge. He caught redbankgreen’s attention in Red B ...
POPE OKS ORATORY
RED BANK: St. Anthony of Padua obtains papal approval to establish Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a community of priests and brothers devoted t ...
RED BANK: NEW MURAL BRIGHTENS CORNER
RED BANK: Lunch Break founder Norma Todd is depicted in a mural painted this week on the front of the newly renovated social service agency.
TULIPS TOGETHER
Spring tulips taking in the sunset outside the Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank Monday evening.