Among Fort Monmouth Developers, Three Local Residents

February 6, 2017

Area businessman, philanthropist, and Red Bank gallery owner Kenneth Schwartz is converting the former Fort Monmouth barracks into a multi-purpose arts community.

Story and photos by Laura D.C. Kolnoski

FORT MONMOUTH – Among the projects moving forward on Fort Monmouth announced on Jan. 26 by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) are two by well-known Monmouth County residents.

ARTS/CULTURAL COMMUNITY

Six buildings off the Fort Monmouth entrance at Oceanport Avenue in Eatontown that once served as the fort’s barracks will become a hub of arts, culture and entertainment under the vision of Kenneth Schwartz, owner of the Detour Gallery in Red Bank. Known primarily for his ownership of the area’s World Auto Group car dealerships, Schwartz has been an arts and antiques collector and patron for over 40 years.

Also recognized as a philanthropist, Schwartz recently sold his auto dealerships, but retained ownership of the land. He is currently converting a former stair factory on Red Bank’s Drs. James Parker Boulevard into an additional artists’ space that will operate in conjunction with the Detour Gallery downtown on Clay Street he opened last year after two years of work to renovate a long-vacant commercial building.

Schwartz’s plans to acquire the barracks and convert the 4.4-acre site into an “active arts community” have been in the works for about a year. FMERA officials said earlier this year that, while they did not initially envision such a use for the barracks, they found Schwartz’s proposals worthy of consideration. He was the sole bidder on the Semaphore Avenue location near the fort’s former marina, now redeveloped and re-opened as the waterfront Marina at Oceanport restaurant and bar that also offers small craft rentals in season. The World War II-era barracks total approximately 25,000 square feet.

“I was raised in this area and wanted to do this project,” Schwartz said. “Some of the soldiers stationed here were my customers at the auto dealerships. When the fort closed it was like a cold wind came through the area; it generated a lot of nervousness. I saw the barracks they intended to rip down. I’ve been all over the world and have seen people take such sites and turn them into an arts and cultural community.” Schwartz’s plans include studios and galleries for dance, music, arts, and spaces for artists to create and show their works, augmented by classes, seminars, and other related activities. “It will be Woodstock without the pot,” he joked.

Dave Callahan, (left), and Chris Champeau, (right), discussed their plans to create a comprehensive sports complex at Fort Monmouth at the Marina at Oceanport on January 26.

FITNESS CENTER

Rumson-Fair Haven High School Bulldogs basketball coaches Chris Champeau and Dave Callahan are successful high school sports instructors. Operating as FM Partners, LLC, the pair has been working to purchase the fort’s former fitness center in the Oceanport section for some three years. The sole bidders, they plan to renovate and expand the facility located on 7.75 acres.

“This area needs fields and courts and the fitness center is a top-of-the-line jewel,” Champeau said. “We can accomplish what we’ve wanted to do, including a health club, programs, and athletic facilities for children through adults. We hope to employ veterans. We’re fired up that it’s going to happen.”

“The fitness center is 32,000 square feet and we will add 2,000 more,” Callahan added. “There’s a pool and three acres of outdoor space for soccer and lacrosse fields. We want to work hand-in-hand with Oceanport.”

“As businesses bring more employees to the fort, FMERA is excited at the prospect of having a facility to meet the fitness and recreational needs of the expanding workforce and the community at large,” FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman said.


Related story: Coming to Fort Monmouth: Lifestyle and Retail Hub ‘Freedom Pointe’


 

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