RED BANK: PRESERVATIONISTS CONCERNED

A website posting by the prospective buyer of two Red Bank buildings listed on an inventory of historic properties hints at big changes to come. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank preservationists expressed concern in recent days over the pending sale of two downtown buildings they believe have historic significance.

An architectural rendering labeled “RiverMark at Maple Cove” on the prospective property owner’s website. Below, 96 West Front, next door to the public library, was the longtime office of a dentist. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

According to a notice of settlement filed with the Monmouth County Clerk in August, a company called the RiverMark at Maple Cove LLC has a contract to buy the two lots, located on the northeast corner of Maple Avenue and West Front Street. State corporate records identify Mark Forman of Marlboro as the LLC’s member.

The seller is K Hovnanian, the homebuilder whose headquarters, on the northwest corner, was recently sold to OceanFirst Financial for $42.5 million, according to a deed filed with the Monmouth County Clerk. Hovnanian is moving to Old Bridge.

Forman, who previously owned 39 East Front Street, could not be reached by redbankgreen for comment on his plans for the properties. No applications have been submitted to the borough planning and zoning office, officials said.

But a recent posting on Forman’s website has preservationists on alert. There, under ‘current projects,’  is an architect’s rendering of a three-story office building, also identified as the RiverMark at Maple Cove.

A Google Images search, however, shows the same rendering identified as a medical office building in Orlando, Florida on the website of a structural engineering firm based there. It’s not clear if Forman intends to use the same, or similar, design.

The properties are in the Waterfront Development zone, which allows for a wide range of uses, including multifamily housing, hotels, office buildings and restaurants.

The Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission is concerned about both properties, chairwoman Michaela Ferrigine told redbankgreen.

The one at the corner of Maple Avenue and West Front Street, number 98, “was one of the oldest businesses in town, the J. Trafford Allen lumber” store, Ferrigine said by email, and 96 is “one of two remaining sister dwellings built at the time of Eisner mansion,” which for the past 75 years has served as the borough library..

“Both properties were recently added to HPC Inventory, at least to have a record of their existence and significance, hopefully [for the commission] to have say in what they do there,” she said. “We have not seen any plans for the sites, although I expected HOV would want to demolish.”
“In any case, HPC wasn’t aware the property had changed hands from HOV, which would give us more traction to fight demolition,” Ferrigine added on Monday. “Plus, the owner is allowing the property to become derelict, and someone placed window-board coverings over the windows just this morning. Also, the plan looks like it includes the Maple Cove access, which would be doubly concerning.’

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