Project Needs Numerous Variances from Zoning Board
By John Burton
RED BANK – The borough Zoning Board of Adjustment may cast the deciding vote for a project that could finally result in building on a long-vacant West Front Street lot.
The board, over a handful of hearings, has been considering the The Element, a four-story, upscale residential project intended for 55 West Front Street. The site for many years had been home to Meridian Extended Care, a facility that had been owned and operated by Meridian Health, which owns and operates Riverview Medical Center here. But what is now being proposed is reduced from what was initially slated for this property.
Located across from the borough’s Riverside Gardens Park, the site has remained vacant since 2009, when the care facility was demolished.
What is being considered now is “a class A multifamily development,” said Debra Tantleff, who is working on the project.
“We believe we are fundamentally designing a building that embodies all of the elements of quality living in a downtown environment,” said Tantleff, by way of the project’s name.
Tantleff is the founding principal partner of TANTUM real estate, a Jersey City-based development firm, involved in 55 West Front Street, LLC, looking to develop the project. According to Tantleff, her firm specializes in multifamily and mixed-use projects, mostly in northern New Jersey.
The local zoning board had approved a plan for the site back in 2007 that would have allowed for the construction of a five-story building with 27 fairly spacious condominiums and a below-grade parking deck.
After winning approval, however, developers ran headlong into the 2008 Great Recession and “a market that wouldn’t enable the condos to move forward,” Tantleff observed.
“The owners of the property have repositioned and redesigned this,” scaling back the original concept, she said. Now the project would have 35 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments and in three stories, with the ground level, fourth story intended as a parking tier.
Should the project be approved, the one-bedroom apartments will range in size between 750-800 square feet; the two-bedroom units are planned for “north of 1,200 square feet,” Tantleff said. The structure will feature “A more appropriate architectural design, to cohesively fit into the streetscape” of the area, with the building’s exterior featuring brick and stone in a Victorian style, she said.
Scaling back the project, Tantleff maintained, would improve the situation for its immediate neighbor, Trinity Episcopal Church, 65 West Front St., by creating “expansive open space that separates us from the church,” she said.
The Element will be marketed to young professionals and empty-nesters, both demographics appreciating what Red Bank has to offer and easy access to mass transit and local attractions, and is similar to what Woodmont Properties and Metrovation/ Terranomics Development accomplished with their West Side Lofts project, just west on West Front Street, Tantleff stressed.
As to what the rents might eventually be for the 35 units, Tantleff responded that “It’s a little premature to get specific.”
For the project to proceed, the zoning board would have to approve a use variance for density; according to local zoning regulations maximum density is 25 dwelling units per acre is permitted, while given the size of the property it equates to 47 units per acre, requiring the variance; and another because it exceeds maximum height by 6.7 feet. The board would also have to approve variances for the parking lack of required parking and other relief for such things as rear property setback, as well as various design waivers, according to the borough Office of Planning and Zoning.
The developers have presented their professionals and testimony at previous zoning board hearings and all that remains before a final vote is the public comment session, Tantleff said
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