RED BANK: GUT JOB, BUT NO EATERY FOR NOW

39 e front 011817Architect Jim Monteforte details proposed facade changes to 39 East Front Street, seen below, at Wednesday night’s planning board meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Rendering below by Monteforte Architects. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

39 e front 071514A proposed makeover of a bunker-like building in downtown Red Bank won unanimous approval from the borough planning board Wednesday night.

But the board held off on allowing the building’s new owners to create a restaurant on the ground floor.

That decision did not trouble John Caruso, who with his twin brother, Scott, bought the building at 39 East Front Street for $1.13 million last August, according to Monmouth County records.

The Carusos plan to install the headquarters of their business, a real estate development firm called CJS Investments, on the second floor of the building, John Caruso told the board. On the ground floor, they’d proposed creating space for retail, office or restaurant use.

But first, the stucco-encrusted building, formerly the home of Red Bank Radiology, is in for a gut job. Architect Jim Monteforte detailed plans for a new glass-and-stone new facade, as well as aesthetic improvements on the back side.

The building, sandwiched between Sugarush cupcake shop and Red Bank Eye, has a rear entrance on Riverview Plaza, opposite the emergency room entrance of Riverview Medical Center.

Monteforte said he’ll raise the ceilings on both levels of the structure in order to bring it to “class A” office space, with extensive use of skylights on the second floor.

“Everything you said makes perfect sense for retail or office” use, board member Barbara Boas told the applicant. But, she said, she was “concerned” about a restaurant going into the ground-floor space.

The building’s last owner, Mark Forman, sought to create a pharmacy and convenience store on the first floor, but was rejected in December, 2014, in part over concerns that delivery vehicles might conflict with hospital operations.

Board member and borough Administrator Stanley Sickels referred to that case in echoing Boas’ concerns.

Caruso told the board the his preference was to have a retail or office tenant, with the option of a restaurant should market forces dictate. He readily agreed to a condition of approval that he’d return to the board for review of any plan to create a restaurant.

“We’re not looking to make money on this building,” Caruso said, noting that his father had long owned the Globe Hotel bar just up the block, and that he and his brother were graduates of Red Bank Catholic and still lived nearby. “This is our home.”

Among the variances granted was one for a parking shortfall, with 12 spaces provided where 36 are required for office use. A restaurant would boost that need to 54 spaces.

No tenants have been signed, said Caruso, who told redbankgreen he hopes to begin work on the building by summer.

In other board business, a hearing on a plan for a makeover of 26 West Front Street, most recently the home to Caliente Cantina, was postponed to March 6.