By JOHN T. WARD
The hottest of hot topics in downtown Red Bank faces a key hurdle this week when a redevelopment plan that could lead to the construction of a massive parking garage in the heart of downtown faces a key vote.
But first, the minimum number of new parking spaces to be created on the present site of the White Street municipal lot could be significantly increased.
Written by planner Anthony Rodriguez of CME Associates, the document lays out zoning parameters for the 2.3-acre borough-owned property, which now has parking for 273 vehicles.
That number would double, at least, to a minimum 550 spots under Rodriguez’s recommendation, which also calls for ground-level retail fronting on White Street, as well as housing in a structure that could be as much as eight stories tall — three floors higher than the downtown’s tallest building.
Here’s the plan: white-street-lot-redevelopment-plan-2016-25
In November, the planning board certified, by a unanimous vote, that the plan was compliant with the borough’s Master Plan. But the board sent the document back to the council with request that it be changed so that new stores and restaurants in the new structure not be exempt from parking requirements.
Pressure for that change has been building among downtown merchants, who fear a large restaurant created in the new facility could gobble up many of the new parking spots. They told Mayor Pasquale Menna and Councilman Mike Whelan at a meeting two weeks ago that they’d like to see a net gain of 500 spots, or a total 773, according to an email Whelan sent to fellow council members on December 5.
“There have been ongoing discussions” with Red Bank RiverCenter, manager of the downtown special improvement district, Menna told redbankgreen last week. “It’s an ambulatory plan.”
Whelan, who is the governing body’s liaison to RiverCenter, said in the email that he would push for that change, as well as the change requested by the planning board, before the ordinance goes to a vote Wednesday.
Approval of the plan would move the project one step closer to a solicitation for proposals by developers, whose specific plans would have to be approved by the planning board.
Looming questions about the project are unlikely to be answered immediately, however, including how big the structure would be; how much of it would be dedicated to non-parking uses such as retail, housing and open space; and how it will be financed.
And here’s the full council agenda. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the council chamber at 90 Monmouth Street.