By JOHN T. WARD
The pending arrival of the store, slated for next August, was at the center of a handful of changes to the massive project the borough zoning board approved Thursday night.
• the elimination of one of the 92 residential units to make room for a mezzanine in the West Elm store
• an increase in the size of the Triumph Brewing Company brew pub now under construction
• the elimination of a requirement that three “live-work” apartments be occupied by artists
• and the installation of solar panels atop the parking deck.
“I just thought it so important to have a credible retailer in that corner,” Chris Cole, principal in the development firm Metrovation, said of West Elm, which has leased 13,000 square feet at the project’s northwest corner, at Bridge Avenue and West Front Street.
A subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, West Elm was founded in Brooklyn 12 years ago and has 65 stores internationally, including two in New Jersey: Princeton MarketFair and Paramus.
Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Jim Scavone called the West Elm signing “huge,” both because the company has a strong following and because it will give the downtown promotion agency a boost in its business-recruitment efforts.
“There’s a lot of businesses that will want to be here because they’re here,” he told redbankgreen.
The elimination of an apartment and other space reallocation allows for West Elm to have a 2,800-square-foot mezzanine, which Cole said is a mandated feature of all its stores. The project’s obligation to provide affordable units is unaffected by the change, he said.
A feature of West Elm stores is that they host Etsy parties for local artists and craftspeople to sell their wares, without the company taking a cut, Cole told the board. That service, he argued, somewhat offset the loss of artists-only live-work spaces previously approved.
Cole said Metrovation was “having some trouble” finding artists willing to lease the three maisonettes, which front on Edmund Wilson Way, between the lofts and the Two River Theater, and feature large glass doors on the ground floor. The board agreed to amend the prior approval to allow for other types of retail while maintaining the requirement that the proprietor live in the attached apartment.
The board also approved a 1,600-square-foot increase in the size of the brew pub to create more room around the brewing vats and kitchen without raising the number of seats, now at 180. Cole said Triumph is slated to open in June.
The pub and West Elm will both adjoin Danny’s Steakhouse, which the lofts project surrounds on three sides. Cole said he’s also hoping to sign a juice bar to a 700-square-foot space at the northeast corner of the project.
The board also approved the installation of solar panels above the project’s 219-car parking garage. An engineer testified that the panels, which will power the projects common areas, will not be visible either from the street or from any apartments.
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.