By JOHN T. WARD
A proposed office building that would transform a prominent corner of Red Bank’s Washington Street Historic District won planning board approval Monday night.
The project comes with a first for the town: a valet-operated parking system that can store up to 92 cars in underground racks.
A rendering of the office building proposed for the corner of East Front and Spring streets. Below, the corner as it appeared in September. (Drawing by Bob Van Remoortel, photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
The plan, by Geoff Pierini of Rumson, calls for razing three decrepit buildings on East Front Street at the corner of Spring Street. They would be replaced by a three-story, 26,200-square-foot structure expected to house medical offices, though no tenants have yet been identified, attorney Chad Warnken told the board.
“We really wanted to blend this building in with the context of the neighborhood,” architect Bob Van Remoortel told the planning board. He noted its Victorian details, such as decorative moldings and corbels, used to “hide the office building feel.
“It’s designed to give a kind of residential feel,” he said. A faux widow’s walk atop a portion of the mansard roof will hide mechanical systems from street view, he said.
The parking plan calls for employees and visitors arriving by car to leave their vehicles with a valet on the Spring Street side of the building, where there would be a garage entry and exit served by two car elevators, traffic consultant Justin Taylor told the board.
The valet would accompany the car by elevator to the basement, where a second attendant would park the car in a separate lift or one of the nine spots on the basement slab. The elevator would return to street level within 60 seconds, he said.
A partially covered apron would be able to queue up at least four vehicles, Taylor said. With both elevators running, “we anticipated max queueing of four vehicles” at the busiest time of the morning, he said. “We can accommodate them without queueing on the street.”
“I love that you’re looking to bring this underground,” said board member David Cassidy, who said there’s a rack storage parking system outside his New York City office and had never noticed any noises or operational issues.
The plan provides 92 parking spaces, though board engineer Ed Hermann calculated 131 would be needed under borough ordinances. Taylor, though, argued that as few as 84 spaces would be needed.
In the event that demand exceeds available space, Pierini would find offsite parking for clients, Warnken said in response to a question from the board. “But we don’t anticipate that’s going to be an issue,” he said.
Cassidy asked about prohibiting left turns out of the building onto Spring Street at morning peak, but Taylor noted that’s when few vehicles would be leaving the site.
The plan needed a setback variance for a canopy over the front entrance on East Front Street, where Pierini proposed a visitor drop-off driveway that also needs Monmouth County approvals because the county owns the thoroughfare.
Three residents — Rosemarie Costa, of East Front Street, and Rich Devlin and John Goga, both of Spring Street — raised concerns about water-table displacement, traffic impacts and vehicle storage. And board members asked how Pierini would deal with an outage that prevented immediate retrieval of vehicles.
Warnken said there would be a maintenance agreement with the elevator and rack vendor to ensure fast repairs.
“The applicant has a vested interest. They don’t want to have building people can’t get their cars out of,” he said.
Mayor Pasquale Menna praised the plan. He said Pierini “listened to the comments of the community” when the proposal was modified to suit the Historic Preservation Commission, and came up with a design that will eradicate “an eyesore” collection of buildings.
The subterranean parking system “brings in technology that is sorely needed” in town, Menna said.
The board’s approval was unanimous.
Pierini, who bought the site in for $1.25 million in 2017 through RB River Properties LLC, intends to raze the existing structures as soon as possible, Warnken told the board. Construction could begin in about a year, he said, though additional permits have yet to be obtained from Monmouth County, he said.