Roger Mumford, seen here in 2015, has offered a new plan for the White Street parking lot site that garage backers hope will dissolve political opposition to development. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
One of the five would-be builders of a downtown parking garage has told Red Bank officials he’s willing to build a 773-space parking garage on White Street in exchange for the right to erect 100 homes next door.
Garage advocates touted the informal proposal Wednesday night in the hopes of busting through a political logjam, one they believe has been erected by the three Democrats on the six-member borough council.
Council Democrats Kathy Horgan, Ed Zipprich and Eric Yngstrom were silent on the issue at Wednesday’s meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Roger Mumford, the only local contender among five builders vying for the right to redevelop the 2.3-acre borough-owned White Street parking lot, was not present at Wednesday’s semimonthly council session. But he confirmed to redbankgreen via text that he had authorized officials of Red Bank RiverCenter to outline a plan he’d pitched to the the downtown promotion agency over the course of several meetings, including one hours earlier.
Mumford’s idea, RiverCenter board member Jay Herman told the council, is to erect a garage that nets 500 additional parking spaces on the eastern end of the site; build 100 homes on the western end; and turn Drummond Place into a through-street between White and Monmouth streets.
The garage portion would be no more than six stories high, and the residential part would top out at eight stories, “plus a tiny crown at the center that you couldn’t even see from the street,” Herman said. An earlier proposal by Mumford included a building 12 stories tall.
The new plan would would be evaluated before, and apart from, Mumford’s desire to develop two Maple Avenue properties that adjoin the parking lot, Herman said.
Touting Mumford’s modifications as “really great news,” Herman said that RiverCenter wasn’t advocating for any single plan.
“We’re not here to saying ‘pick Roger.’ We’re saying that Roger is willing to satisfy what all of us want. If someone else can do that, fine, pick someone else,” Herman said.
But the Mumford plan “may even present a way for those who have suggested they’re opposed to any of the five proposals to climb on board,” Herman said, because it addresses the concerns of Democrats Kathy Horgan, Ed Zipprich and Eric Yngstrom about height and density in the concept plans submitted in response to a borough solicitation earlier this year.
In May, the Democratic trio trashed the five proposals as “ridiculous” in scale and vowed “staunch opposition” to all. They later said that they favor a garage-only solution for the site.
None of the Democrats offered any public response Wednesday night as others in the audience gently pressed them, and the entire council, to meet with the five builders to begin to shape an acceptable plan.
“We have begged you to continue the process by meeting with the developers and RiverCenter,” said RiverCenter executive director Jim Scavone said. “We firmly believe that most, if not all, of the developers would be more than willing to provide the parking we so desperately need if given the opportunity.”
Anthony Barbera, publisher of Industry magazine, was more blunt.
“For 20 years, I have been hearing that t is extremely irresponsible to make the residents responsible” for the cost of a garage, he said. Now, five willing developers have offered plans that under which they assume the risk, he said. He called on the Democrats to “cut the political stuff, which is disgusting.”
Locust Avenue resident Ben Forest reiterated both his support for a parking solution and his “concern about the process,” in which little or no information is coming from the council’s parking committee while rumors swirl about meetings with builders and builders amending their plans.
Republican Councilman Mike Whelan, who chairs the parking committee, told the audience that he had no new information to offer on the issue, but added, “I hope this is the last time I have to say I have no updates.”
Of the five concepts submitted in April, none actually calls for 500 net new spaces for public use, RiverCenter said in a statement earlier this month. “It is only through the use of “shared parking” and lower ratios for the number of spaces needed per residential unit that the proposals claim to meet this requirement.”
The agency, which oversees the town’s special improvement district, said it “cannot and will not” support any plan that provides less than 500 additional spaces.