By JOHN T. WARD
The massive former VNA Health Group headquarters in Red Bank would be demolished and replaced with multifamily residential housing under a plan in the works, redbankgreen has learned.
At its semimonthly meeting Wednesday night, the borough council approved the designation of engineering firm CME Associates as the planning engineer “in regard to” the lot on which the VNA building sits, according to the agenda.
Mayor Pasquale Menna told the audience the engineering and planning work was for “a redevelopment area to be dedicated” at the VNA site.
The three-story, 38,000-square-foot building, at 176 Riverside Avenue, on the corner of Bodman Place, was acquired in January for $7.4 million by an arm of Saxum Real Estate of Parsippany-Troy Hills.
Afterward, Menna told redbankgreen that in “brief discussions,” Saxum had requested the borough explore the possibility of designating the site as an area in need of redevelopment.
The designation would be comparable to the one granted to the owners of 55 West Front Street in 2016, he said. A 35-unit luxury apartment building is now under construction on that site, located across the street from Riverside Gardens Park.
No plans for the VNA site had yet been filed with the borough planning office, Menna said. But “the general framework calls for not a rehabilitation [of the existing building] but a completely new structure.”
Anthony Rinaldi, a principal in the firm, did not respond to a request for information Thursday.
Menna said Saxum officials indicated they would not seek to build a high-rise structure, and that whatever went up would not be as tall as the seven-story Colony House apartment building opposite the site on Bodman Place.
The property is located in the waterfront development zone, which permits up to 40 residential units per acre for properties abutting either Riverside Avenue or the Navesink River.
Just across Route 35 from the site, on the site of a former Exxon station, a developer has approvals to build a six-story, 76-room Hampton Inn hotel. Construction has not yet begun.
The resolution clears officials of CME, the borough’s engineering consultant, to meet with Saxum’s planners and report back to the council with “recommendations for design guidelines that would be beneficial to all of the municipality,” Menna said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to shape the future of the municipality in terms of one of the anchor properties of Red Bank. “It’s the entrance to the municipality, it’s a gem of a property and we want to make sure somebody doesn’t put up a box.”
Under the terms of the resolution, Saxum will pay CME’s fees, so there is no cost to the borough, he said. Here’s the resolution: 18-161
Prior to the sale, VNA, formerly the Visiting Nurse Association, relocated its headquarters to Holmdel. As a result of the sale, the building and associated lots are assessed at $8.6 million and taxable, according to borough records. Under the nonprofit VNA’s ownership, they were tax-exempt.
In December, 2016, Saxum bought the former Smith Barney building at 55 Broad Street, for $4 million. In promotional materials, it touts the site as the Vault, a multi-tenant office building. No plans for that project have been filed yet either, borough officials said.