By JOHN T. WARD
After years of neglect, the longtime office of beloved father-and-son Red Bank physicians, Drs. James Parker Sr. and Jr., was cleared for rehabilitation by the zoning board Thursday night.
The house, at 175 Shrewsbury Avenue, at the corner of East Leonard Street, was the office and home of Dr. James W. Parker Sr., the son of a former slave who came to Red Bank in 1916, and maintained his practice there until his death in 1973, according to an obituary published by the Red Bank Register.
“He was a physician both to the bodies and souls of this community ever since he moved here,” then-Mayor Dan O’Hern was quoted as saying at the time.
Parker’s son was born in the house in 1919, according to an oral history interview he gave in 2000, and lived there until his death in 2004, according to a tribute on the website of the nearby Parker Family Health Center, which is named for the pair.
In 2002, Drs. James Parker Boulevard, formerly West Bergen Place, was also named for them, along with the younger man’s cousin, a dentist named Dr. James Alvin “Moose” Parker, according to an account on the website of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
The house has been vacant for at least five years, said former mayor Ed McKenna, the attorney representing new owner Aldi Tafani, of Colts Neck.
Tafani, who bought the property earlier this year for $261,000, proposed rehabilitating it and expanding it toward Shrewsbury Avenue to create 1,160 square feet of retail space on the first floor. A first-floor apartment use would be retained, and two apartments would be created on the second floor, McKenna said.
Though it was previously used as an apartment, the first-floor unit required a variance because the zoning doesn’t permit it with retail space, the borough planning and zoning office determined. And while the number of parking spaces was increased, to seven, there was still a four-space deficiency that also needed a variance.
Stephen Skinner, who lives two houses away on Bridge Avenue, opposed the plan, based on its sized and the level of activity he feared it would generate.
“We don’t need any more cars on Leonard Street,” he said. “It’s a nice quiet street. We have plenty of apartments already.”
But McKenna told the board that under present zoning, Tafani could “tear the building down and build four apartments on top, with all retail on the bottom,” without requiring a variance. “The applicant is willing to accept a lower number of apartments than he’s entitled to have,” he said.
The units would be about 1,400 square feet each, according to testimony. No retail tenant has been signed, McKenna said, though possible uses included a small food store or hair salon.
The board’s approval was unanimous.
Separately, a proposal by the charitable housing group HABcore to create a six-unit building at what’s now a non-conforming two-family at 119 River Street, near Leighton Avenue, was rescheduled for November 2.