18 broad 061315At 18 Broad Street, now concealed by scaffolding, the Art Deco foyer seen below will be replaced by one more reminiscent of the building’s 19th-century origins, the architect said. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


18 broad 040615Accelerating downtown Red Bank’s flight from retail to food, the zoning board approved the conversion of a longtime shoe store to a restaurant Thursday night.

Dominating the two-hour hearing were two issues: whether the new owner of 18 Broad Street should be permitted to have three apartments upstairs, rather than the two allowed under the zoning ordinance, and whether the Art Deco foyer should be saved or replaced.

Barely mentioned: the impact of the 76-seat restaurant on parking.

Ralph Notaro, a Colts Neck resident and owner of a Brooklyn catering hall called El Caribe, bought the building from retired retailer Don Strohmenger for $900,000 in March, according to Monmouth County records. Strohmenger’s store, called If the Shoe Fits, closed last August, ending a continuous run of footwear sales under various names dating back to 1846.

Architect Michael James Monroe told the board that Notaro plans to create a restaurant that mixes dining and entertainment, some of it ticketed. “It might be a magician one night,” Monroe said. “It might be a dancer, it might be a cellist.”

Notaro told redbankgreen that he would operate the restaurant, which he hasn’t yet named, and offer a shifting menu of Italian, Spanish and other cuisines, occasionally bringing in guest chefs for as little as a week at a time to coincide with entertainment themes.

The borough’s Historic Preservation Commission was on record as opposing the elimination of the curved-glass foyer, which it said is the last remaining example of Art Deco design in the commercial district. No one from the HPC spoke at the meeting, however. Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, seated in the audience, challenged Monroe on that aspect of the plan.

Monroe, though, said his design was actually more in character with the Italianate Victorian look of the building and the downtown.

“I do like the curved glass,” which could be donated to someone who’s willing to preserve it, he said. “But it’s a bastardization of this building.”

Under Notaro’s plan, the second and third floors of the building would hold three apartments, where they were previously used as an office and one apartment. A planner for Notaro argued that an “anomaly” in the zoning law allowed for up to four apartments above most store types, including food stores, and that restaurants in the transit zone around the train station were permitted to have four or more units above them, but in this part of the downtown, they were limited to two.

With little discussion, all six board members present voted to approve the plan.

The project required, and won, a variance for a 22-space parking deficiency. A moratorium on fees that developers must pay when their downtown projects don’t offer enough parking s set to expire on June 30; the borough council is expected to take up whether to extend it again next Wednesday night.