wb ws lofts 100814 1A fifth-floor view of the  “mews” between two buildings at the West Side Lofts, looking toward the Two River Theater. Below, developer Chris Cole. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


chris cole 100814After years on the drawing board, one of the biggest – and architecturally boldest – residential projects ever conceived for Red Bank is nearing completion.

While area merchants and restaurateurs anxiously await their arrival, West Side Lofts developer Chris Cole said he’s planning on having the first tenants move in as early as February.

Designed by David Baker Architects in San Francisco, the project features 92 rental units in a Rubik’s-cube-like amalgam of bold color and jutting facades that dominates the corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue, in what’s sometimes referred to as the Arts and Antiques District of town.

But “it’s not trying to make a statement,” Cole  told redbankgreen on a recent tour. “It’s more trying to embrace the arty side of town.”

wb ws lofts 100814 2A fifth-floor corner unit with a view of the Navesink River. Below, an architect’s rendering of the finished project, though the yellow has since been muted to a near-beige. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

mw-west-side-lofts-20111Walking through a canyonesque “mews” between two buildings that’s now filled with construction material and machinery, Cole talks about custom-made steel planters and “festive and welcoming” landscaping that he said will reflect the “arty West Side” sensibility of the area.

The landscaping will be among the final touches on a project that started almost a decade ago, when the site was home to Blaisdell Lumber and a sprawling antiques emporium.

After participating in a boomlet of revitalization that began in Red Bank two decades ago, when it renovated a handful of downtown buildings, Cole’s firm, Metrovation, went largely quiet as as builder on the Green in recent years, concentrating its construction efforts on the West Coast. In fact, Cole and his wife, former Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Tracy Challenger, moved their family out to Bellevue, Washington so he could oversee a project there.

The inactivity here was largely owing to the fact that Metrovation’s two big Red Bank projects – the West Side Lofts and a plan to renovate the long-vacant Anderson Storage building just a block away – were tied up in litigation, and then stalled by the economic downturn of 2008.

Those logjams have now been cleared. Cole said the project he moved west for wrapped up two years early, and he and his wife found they missed Red Bank. With so much on the drawing board in Red Bank and Shrewsbury, where Metrovation owns the Grove and Grove West shopping centers, they moved back in July.

On Thursday night, Cole and a team consisting of a lawyer, an architect and an engineer or two are scheduled return to the Red Bank zoning board, seeking new approvals that would allow the conversion of the Anderson building to stores and offices. An earlier approval would have turned the building into condos.

Meanwhile, the West Side Lofts are burgeoning to life, one year after work began on a prefab parking deck to serve the project. A hulking complex that dominates the corner on which it sits, the lofts even wrap around the two-story Danny’s Steakhouse; attempts to buy the land and relocate the business for owner Danny Murphy failed, Cole said.

Earlier this month, three-story model unit with an ample terrace overlooking the Two River Theater was opened. Starting rents in the complex range from $2,150 a month for a 760-square-foot one-bedroom to $4,000 per month for a 2,100SF “live/work maisonette” with two bedrooms, three baths and some retail space.

Those units will feature direct access to the mews. And scattered throughout the upper floors are common-area lounges, game rooms and small conference rooms that can be used by tenants who work at home. Each unit gets at least one parking space in the parking garage.

The project features a first-floor gym; a rooftop “amenity deck” with a bar, a hot tub and a fire pit; a parking deck topped with solar panels, and a canyon-like “interior mews” between two buildings that will be lushly landscaped and open to the public during the day, said Cole.

When finished, the lofts will also be home to Triumph Brewing Company, which is building a two-floor, 12,000-square-foot restaurant and brew pub on the first floor at the southwest corner of the property, and a yet-to-be-disclosed retailer for the northwest corner.

Since its original approval in 2006, the plan has been modified somewhat. Most notably, the bold colors have been toned down a bit, and a shrieking yellow that troubled some members of the zoning board has been muted to beige. But the mix “still is bold, because there isn’t a lot of color in this area,” said Cole. “It’s kind of a limited palette.”

Cole said he’s reached out to arts groups for insight into who might lease the live-work units envisioned for artists, and is talking to the theater next door about ticket discounts for tenants.

Metrovation, which is mostly experienced in retail and office space, partnered with Woodmont Properties on the lofts project.