By JOHN T. WARD
A plan to build 150 apartments atop an existing restaurant and parking deck in downtown Red Bank got its first taste of public scrutiny Thursday night.
While descriptions of the project by an engineer and an architect for developer PRC Group took up most of the three-hour zoning board hearing, it became clear that the plan’s scale, and impact on traffic, are likely to be issues.
A site plan showing the footprint of the project, with West Front Street at top and West Street at left. Below, a closer look at the apartments proposed for construction above the existing restaurant and parking garage. (Site plan by Maser Consulting; rendering by Feinberg & Associates. Click to enlarge.)
As previously reported by redbankgreen, PRC’s proposed additions to its Red Bank Corporate Plaza on West Front Street would shatter the borough’s limits on building height, density and more.
The project would add up to five floors above Pazzo MMX restaurant and the existing four-story parking garage at 141 West Front Street.
PRC’s new buildings would top out at 125 feet in height in a zone where the limit is 40 feet. They also would create a density of 56.9 residential units per acre, where the zone maximum is 16 per acre. Variances are needed in both cases, and if granted, PRC plans to return to the board for detailed site plan review at a future date.
Board member Richard Angowski sought to establish whether the project, topping out at nine stories, would constitute the tallest structure in Red Bank.
Jeremy Lange, an engineer at Maser Consulting, representing PRC, noted that both Riverview Towers and the Springpoint Atrium on Riverside Avenue, located just steps away from the PRC site, have more floors, at 13 and 12 respectively, as does Grandview Towers, at 10 floors.
Angowski, however, pressed on whether those equated to greater heights, a question Lange said he couldn’t answer.
As part of its makeover, PRC proposes to eliminate the existing parking deck entry and exit on West Front Street, replacing it with an opening on West Street, on the former Sanford Auto Body site.
Chris Cole, a principal in the development firm Metrovation, voiced safety concerns related to that aspect of the plan.
“There’s, almost every day, an accident” at or near West and Wall streets, said Cole, whose firm has an office on West. “Yes, it is not as busy as Front, as most streets aren’t, but there’s a lot of activity.”
With the new proposed garage access on West Street, “my concern is that there’s going to be additional congestion and accidents” as a result, Cole said.
Bob Marchese, an attorney representing several property owners and business tenants on West Street, including himself, said he and his clients were concerned about the “scope” of the project, and its impact on traffic, particularly at the intersection of West and West Front streets.
“It’s just too big,” Marchese, a former Fair Haven council member, told redbankgreen.
The project is to include 16 apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants. Twenty-three, however, are required, and PRC plans to provide the remaining seven offsite, possibly at the nearby Grandview Towers, which PRC also owns, said Peter Wersinger, company senior vice president.
Attorney and former Democratic New Jersey Assembly member John Wisniewski is representing PRC, which is based in West Long Branch and controlled by Middletown resident Robert Kaye.
During construction, the developer plans on “building a bridge over Pazzo so they can stay in business,” architect William Feinberg, of Feinberg & Associates, testified.
Borough planner Glenn Carter asked Feinberg if, rather than having “fake” retail at the ground floor of the existing garage on West Front, the stores could be real.
If the board is “comfortable” with PRC’s parking analysis, the developer “would look favorably to putting another retail space” there, Feinberg replied.
The hearing was scheduled to resume April 2.
Here are the key documents filed by PRC in support of its proposal:
• Application and description: Red Bank Corporate Plaza application 111819
• Floor plans and renderings: Red Bank Corporate Plaza architecturals 122119
• Traffic and parking analysis: Red Bank Corporate Plaza traffic study 111419