The proposed three-story structure, shown above in an architect’s rendering, would be built on a vacant lot between a two-story apartment building and a restaurant on Shrewsbury Avenue, below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A plan for a small, independently owned pharmacy that doesn’t sell junk food got a warm welcome from the Red Bank Planning Board Monday night.
But the building it would come packaged in, and its impact on area parking, got a chillier reception.
Third-generation druggist Ritesh Shah, who has shops in Holmdel, Howell, Keansburg, and Matawan, has proposed building his fifth in Monmouth County on a vacant lot on Shrewsbury Avenue, just north of River Street.
The as-yet-unnamed business would fill prescriptions and sell only health-related goods such as over-the-counter medications and back braces, said Shah, who has already acquired the property.
The building would also have two floors above the store, with two apartments each. They’d be accessed from a long, landscaped alley along the building’s south side, while the storefront would be on Shrewsbury Avenue.
The project needs a host of variances to proceed, including one for parking deficiency. The borough says Shah should have 16 parking spaces; none are provided. The plan also calls for a three-story building that does not exceed the 35-foot height limit in the zone, though zoning caps structures at 2.5 stories.
With lot frontage of just 37.5 feet – 50 are required – “parking simply cannot be provided by the site,” Shah’s engineer, Jason Fichter, told the board. But street parking is ample in the area, he said. Moreover, the business expects “heavy foot traffic” from neighbors and visitors to the Parker Family Health Center across the street, which has a parking lot, Fichter said. The clinic has also agreed to allow the pharmacy’s two employees park their vehicles there.
Board members voiced support for the pharmacy, noting that the West Side has been without a neighborhood drugstore for the better part of a decade, since the closing of Katsin’s – which Shah said he had once attempted to buy.
“I like the use,” said board member and borough Administrator Stanley Sickels. “We should have a pharmacy there.”
But the street-parking solution didn’t sit well with board members, at least three of whom also found either the size of the building or its appearance objectionable.
“If the third floor wasn’t there, you could have a beautiful two-story building with a pharmacy and two apartments,” said vice chairman Dan Mancuso.
Shah said the four apartments were needed to subsidize the pharmacy, which operates on small margins to keep prices low while offsetting the cost of land acquisition and construction. Monmouth County records show Shah’s company, Asha Realty LL, paid Matrix II $131,000 for the lot last October.
Barbara Boas said the building “would stick out like a sore thumb.”
Michaela Ferrigine, speaking as chair of the borough’s advisory Historic Preservation Commission, said the building “is completely out of character with the Shrewsbury Avenue corridor.”
Answering architect Ed O’Neill’s assertion that the building incorporates the look of the Parker clinic, which he also designed, Ferrigine said the HPC “would like new construction to reflect the character of Red Bank, not one other building.”
O’Neill, of SOME Architects, maintained that the corridor does not in fact have a consistent architectural character. “There is no context there,” he said.
Board members Lou DiMento and Ed Zipprich voiced support for the plan. But with reservations by Mancuso, Sickels and Boas making it apparent the proposal might get shot down, Shah agreed to modify the plan and return to the board to continue the hearing, possibly as early as April 6.