Metrovation partner Chris Cole with a rendering of the proposed project. Below, a freestanding structure in the parking lot would be be made of shipping containers. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A plan to transform the former Anderson storage building in Red Bank into stores and offices reflects years of thinking about how to integrate it into the surrounding neighborhood, proponents told the borough zoning board Thursday night.
Testifying for developer Metrovation, architect Terry William Smith detailed a plan that he said “honors the integrity and the authenticity of the original building” via a four-story addition with a red brick exterior and lots of exposed wood and steel inside. “We’re not tampering with that,” he said.
Still, the project includes some giddy touches, including a small, freestanding structure made of shipping containers in the center of the parking lot and a century-old greenhouse on the roof.
The building, at the corner of Monmouth Street and Bridge Avenue, has been vacant “as far as we can tell for 30 years or so,” Metrovation lawyer Rick Brodsky told the board. It also “happens to be the most studied building I’ve ever worked on,” said Metrovation partner Chris Cole, familiar face at borough hall for his role in transforming three iconic properties downtown.
After scrapping approved plans to turn the building into condos two years ago, “I started thinking of it more globally as part of a neighborhood” that includes single-family homes, the historic Galleria building, the Two River Theater and Metrovation’s own West Side Lofts project now under construction a block away, he said.
The result was a plan that envisions a local market and cafe on the ground floor, though no tenants have been signed, and three stories of office space above, with terraces “carving away at the overall volume to reduce the massing” of an addition and lots of greenery, both on the building and around it, said Smith, of Richardson Smith Architects in Princeton.
Behind the main structure, Metrovation proposes a small retail building constructed of shipping containers, with a single apartment on the second level. Cole said he imagines a juice stand or seasonal retailer there, with the merchants living above.
A century-old greenhouse, one of two that Metrovation salvaged from a farm in Colts Neck, is envisioned on the roof of the existing building for use by a ground-level merchant. “It could be lit up at night,” adding additional “spice and character” to the the project, Cole said.
The plan needs height, parking and setback variances from the board, whose members voiced no objections at the first of what’s expected to be a two-hearing presentation before a vote on October 16.
Member Sharon Lee asked that the developer do a better job of lighting the Monmouth Street facade so it’s not too dark at a night, and Chris Ferrigine asked if the plan is to keep the Anderson sign and clock on the corner facing the train station.
“Right now, it is,” Cole said, though he said a tenant’s branding needs could change that.