Red Bank Signals Interest in Transit Village Idea

October 16, 2018
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Next to the Red Bank train station is a plot of land eyed for development by Denholtz Associates, a group that wishes to build a mixed-use development with 57 housing units and two-story parking garage. Photo by Chris Rotolo

By Chris Rotolo |

RED BANK – A new mixed use development project proposed for an area near the train station fits the borough’s vision to help transform the area into a transit village, says RiverCenter’s executive director, Jim Scavone.

The Bridge Avenue project by Denholtz Associates of Matawan envisioned for an area adjacent to the station’s Oakland Street parking lot includes 57 residential units and a two-story parking structure. It will be presented to the borough planning board for approval on Oct. 15.

 “As we dig more deeply into the transit village application process, I think we’ll be able to better determine exactly what type of development would be best for that area,” said Scavone, in an interview with The Two River Times on Oct. 9. “But I think this type of mixed-use development that’s proposed to go up is probably exactly what we’re looking for.”

In September, Scavone and RiverCenter adopted a vision statement meant to guide the actions of local business owners, stakeholders and government officials towards a successful future for the borough’s various business districts.

Part of that vision statement focused on six transformative strategies. One was to create a New Jersey Transit Village around the borough’s historically significant train station, capitalizing on the borough’s proximity to New York City and those commuters who are in search of a more residential living experience.

Asbury Park, Long Branch, Matawan and South Amboy are among the 33 towns formally recognized by the Dept. of Transportation as designated transit villages, after those towns demonstrated a commitment to revitalize and redevelop transportation hubs into compact, mixed-useneighborhoods with a strong residential component. The municipalities are eligible for various grants. For example, Asbury Park was just awarded a state Transit Village grant of $325,000 for a wayfinding program.

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Speaking of projects like the one proposed by Denholtz, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna said, “It fits like a glove on a hand. It’s perfect. That is the type of smart retooling and recycling of properties that is ideal for that area of Red Bank.”

At the Oct. 15 meeting of the Borough Planning Board, Denholtz will present its final site plan to create 57 living spaces, as well as a 568 square foot cafe and two retail spaces of 6,275 square feet and 756 square feet on a portion of the parcel that formerly held San Remo Fine Italian Cuisine and Racioppi’s.

The plan also includes the renovation of 28,004 square feet of office space located on the lot at at 116 Chestnut Street, a facility that formerly held businesses like Zastarina Fashion and Defined Logic. The on-site parking lot for the Church of St. Anthony of Padua will remain intact.

Additionally, the plan includes the construction of a two-story parking structure on-site that contains 145 parking stalls. Plans indicate that the parking structure entrance and exit ramp will located on Chestnut Street.

Borough ordinances require 240 parking spaces for a project of this size. The remaining 95 spaces are located in a nearby lot at 17-19 Herbert Street.

Despite meeting the guidelines of borough ordinances, an engineering report of the proposal by T&M Associates of Middletown said the project is still deficient by 32 parking spaces, according to the state’s Residential Site Improvements Standards.

The report also indicates that this development project is subject to the requirements set by the state Council on Affordable Housing, and based upon those standards, of the 57 proposed units, 11.4 need to be designated as affordable units.

Menna said it is projects like this that will successfully merge Red Bank’s entertainment elements into a cohesive arts quarter, merging and improvement of areas between the Two River Theatre – located less than 400 feet north of the train station at 21 Bridge Avenue – and the Count Basie Centre For the Arts at 99 Monmouth Street.

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“There is a theater-to-theater link that is happening,” Menna said. “The development of the arts in Red Bank is going to be the triggering event that improves the area between the downtown and the train station, specifically with respect arts-centered residential mixed use development.”

“We’ve already seen this type of improvement take hold in New Brunswick, Newark and Lincoln Center (in New York). As soon as the [Count Basie] theatre starts showing it’s beautiful new face you’re going to see a lot more interest and proposals for the recycling of properties to link the areas surrounding the theaters together,” Menna added.

Scavone agrees.

“If the board signs off on the application and the development proves to be a success, I think it could attract interest from other developers. It’s certainly an attractive location to build.”

Despite the density of units in development projects like the one being proposed, Menna said there is no concern about overdevelopment in the borough, or what the addition of vehicles and pedestrian will do to the flow of traffic in Red Bank’s downtown business district and art centers.

“If not one new housing unit is built you’re still going to have the same traffic problem in and out of Red Bank that there is today, because we’re a center of activity,” Menna said. “The county has to develop a traffic plan for the entire area, because there hasn’t been a serious review of the area by the county or state since the 1960s.”

“And in terms of overdevelopment, no one is talking about building 10-story locations. And no one is talking about developing properties deep into single-family residential areas. These are projects meant for the downtown. That’s where they should be,” Menna said.

This article was first published in the Oct. 11 – Oct. 17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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