In Red Bank’s designated Antiques District, an area of town that may as well be renamed the “Hey, don’t forget about us,” district, a developer wants to build a colorful, hip, bold, and youth-centric multi-use complex, complete with apartments promising modern living and a first-floor brew pub.
The site of the proposed development is next to Danny’s Restaurant, Two River Theater, and the Galleria, three gems in an area of town surrounded by abandoned buildings, failed businesses, and plenty of deteriorating properties where revitalization, clearly, remains something still to come.
For some members of Red Bank’s Planning Board, however, there’s a significant problem with the proposed plan, one that caused more consternation at Thursday night’s meeting than any other.
“Those colors are offensive,” Rosemary Minear, one of three Zoning Board alternates to voice their displeasure about the building’s design, said. “I am very concerned – I always am – it’s one of my pet peeves. We want Red Bank to return to its original flavor.”
Design plans for the project, called West Side Lofts, show a first floor with tall windows and a brick façade. Above that floor, apparently, is where the problem comes in. The plan calls for large sections of solid, but brightly painted walls, ranging from a deep red to pale pastels.
The plan, and subsequently the colors, was approved in 2006. Developers came back to the zoning board seeking variances to building height – they’re looking for another five feet or so on top – and a reduction in parking. What they weren’t seeking was criticism of their color choices, but they got it anyway.
Saying the design plan looked like Disney Land, Minear said more consideration should be paid to the building fitting in with the general neighborhood aesthetic. Minear also questioned whether the building should be the kind of thing visitors first see when entering town.
Board alternate Edward Poplawski agreed.
“If you look at the buildings immediately surrounding the area, this area has great historical buildings from the 1920’s. There are some great industrial buildings in the area,” he said. “You’re looking at palettes that are solid, earth tones, neutral colors from another era.”
For developers, the bright colors are kind of the point. Metrovation Capital Principal Chris Cole, who has helped restore several downtown Red Bank buildings and has developed sites like the Grove at Shrewsbury, said the property would ideally attract young professionals, many of whom would likely commute to New York City for work, who want to live in a hip and up and coming neighborhood.
Project architect Tom Barton said the design speaks to the style of a younger generation.
"It's going to speak of the 21st century. It's not the same old," he said. "It is bright and festive and I will not deny that in any way. There is a preference among younger markets for more contemporary design. They don't want what their parents want."
Whether developers decided to listen to recommendations from some members to reconsider the colors of their building remains to be seen. Board Vice Chair Thomas Williams, prior to ending the discussion, which will resume the next time the board meets on Sept. 1, made it clear that the request from some members was not a demand from the board.
“I believe there are probably some diverging feelings on that matter,” he said.