By JOHN T. WARD
Dubbed ‘Rivermark,’ the project would replace two vacant and crumbling buildings that builder Mark Forman said make for a “really terrible” gateway into the the business district.
The proposal calls for razing the existing structures at 96 and 98 West Front Street, on the northeast corner of Maple Avenue, and replacing them with a four-story, 26,000-square-foot office and residential building.
The new structure would have with two levels of underground parking, according to plans filed with the borough.
The first floor would be for office use, and the upper floors would contain six two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units. Each would have a balcony or deck with views of the Navesink River. Forman said he expects the units to be for sale, rather than rent, but the final decision will depend on market conditions.
“We’re taking that really terrible corner, which is an entrance to Red Bank, and we’re going to beautify it,” Forman told redbankgreen Thursday.
The proposed uses are allowed in the zone, but a number of variances are needed, mostly concerning setbacks from the property lines.
A review of the plan by board planning consultant Ed Herrman of T&M Associates also finds that Forman’s plan is eight parking spaces short of the 51 spots required under local ordinance.
Forman, who also developed the Metropolitan offices and apartments on Wallace Street, has a contract to buy the properties from homebuilder K Hovnanian. Forman said the deal is contingent on his obtaining building approval.
One of the lots, a former dentist’s office, extends north to the Navensink, in between the public library property and a borough-owned parking lot on Maple Avenue. It also abuts the Maple Cove natural area, which is used as a public kayak and canoe launch.
The proposal is tentatively slated for review by the planning board on June 4. Here’s the site plan: 96-98 W FRONT SITE PLAN 050218
Forman said the project, like others that combine homes and commercial uses, are vital to the business district’s health.
“It’s obvious that the people who live in town are not supporting the retail enough,” he said. Bringing in office workers during and residents at night and on weekends will do that, he said. “It’s important. Otherwise, Broad Street is going to decline further,” he said.
The borough’s Historic Preservation Commission has listed the two existing buildings on its inventory of historic structures, and is concerned about the possible loss of both properties, Chairwoman Michaela Ferrigine said in November.
Forman said he had not heard from the commission, and Ferrigine did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Forman, though, maintains the properties have no historic merit. One, he said, was formerly used as a loading site for a lumber company, but there’s no structure associated with that use.
“The dentist’s office had squatters in it until Hovnanian boarded it up, and the other one is modern, with sheetrock walls instead of plaster,” he said. “There’s nothing historic about those buildings.”