Architect Nelson Benavides discussing plans for 170 Monmouth Street, seen in in two renderings from the west. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


A plan to turn a five-story office building opposite the Red Bank train station into rental apartments cleared its first hurdle at the borough zoning board Thursday night.

A schematic diagram shows the existing structure, at lower center, and the L-shaped addition. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Developer David Popkin’s plan calls for converting each of the upper four floors of the five-story, 11,000-square-foot building at 170 Monmouth Street to individual loft-style units, with the first floor reserved for retail use.

It also calls for a four-story, L-shaped rear addition with 16 more apartments above a parking area. No parking variance was needed because the project will provide more than enough slots for tenants’ vehicles, said architect Nelson Benavides.

The building, located across Monmouth Street from the borough train station, is in a so-called “overlay” zone enacted in 2009 to encourage commuter-oriented residential development.

“This is exactly what the train station overlay zone is all about — residential above commercial uses,” attorney and former mayor Ed McKenna, representing Popkin, told the board. “I think that people will live there because of the train.”

The addition is to be built in part on land leased for another 70 years from the Two River Theater. McKenna said the theater — where he’s a board member — “has no interest in interfering in the lease” and is happy to have the income on the property.

Representatives of the Bagel Station restaurant, next door on Monmouth Street, and Tubby’s Auto Center, on West Street, appeared at the hearing. Tubby’s owner Gary Elgrim voiced concern about the proposed addition’s proximity to the rear of his building.

“I have no objections as long as I can get to the back of my property,” he said. McKenna said a plan was in place to ensure both businesses would not be adversely impacted.

Benavides said the existing structure, built in 1927, and the addition would be skinned in materials to make it “compatible” with the nearby Galleria and Anderson Storage buildings, though it wouldn’t necessarily be in brick, as they are, he told redbankgreen.

Four of the apartments would meet the borough’s requirement for affordable housing.

“I love the idea of four affordable units being in the building ” as opposed to being provided at another location, said board Chairwoman Lauren Nicosia. The board’s approval vote was unanimous.

Popkin’s submission was the first half of a bifurcated proposal, in which he was seeking density variances. He will have to return to the board at a future date for detailed site plan review, said board attorney Kevin Kennedy

Among the items to be addressed at that point: a concern that there might not be enough room for fire trucks to access the addition.