When the West Side Lofts project was first approved by the Red Bank Zoning Board five years ago, the plan called for the creation of 263 parking spaces to go along with nearly 100 residential units, a brew pub, and retail space.
Now, having settled a lawsuit and produced a new for-rent plan its planners feel has greater earning potential in the still-down economy, developers are back before the zoning board seeking approval for the plan, but this time with a couple of changes. The most significant issue the board sees, however, is a 50-spot reduction in parking spaces from the original plan.
Metrovation Capital, the company behind the development of , and several projects in Red Bank, wants to build a large complex on the west side of town on Front Street. The building would include 92 apartments of the one and two-bedroom variety, as well as more than 20,000 square feet of retail space, including room for a Triumph Brewing Company brew pub. Though the new plan calls for less retail space, the zoning board is having trouble believing that a new parking garage with just 213 spaces will be adequate.
“I’d like to see a little bit more of a plan to see what you’re going to do,” Board Chairwoman Lauren Nicosia said, adding that spots on paper likely won’t jive with the reality of what’s needed for the project. “And a little more supervision.”
With its traffic expert Maurice Rached in tow, the developer tried to make the case that the 213 spots is more than enough to accommodate both residential and retail use.
Pointing to statistics detailing car ownership in New Jersey, Rached said the trend for most households is towards one-car ownership. According to state statistics, he said, about 46 percent of homes in Red Bank are one-car homes. About 22 percent of homes have two cars with the bulk of the remaining households currently not in ownership of a vehicle.
The plan would allow one parking spot per apartment, a figure Rached argued might even be high as the developer is expecting young, train-commuting professionals to make up the bulk of its tenants. Rached said the developer is even willing to purchase two cars to be shared by non-driving tenants, saying that alone could nullify the need for about 30 spaces. That argument drew a few odd glances from some board members.
Though several members of the board seemed dubious over the assertion that tenants won’t drive, the problem as they see it is with the retail parking. Rached said he studied the area, which is located next to the and the , and surrounds , and found plenty of available parking spaces. He added, however, that his study came on a Thursday night.
During peak times, board members said, it’s already difficult to find parking in the area.
“That’s a very congested area,” Nicosia said. “This is a Thursday night. On a Saturday it’s a whole other story.”
Based on Red Bank ordinances, which base the number of parking spaces on square footage, the . The seemingly arbitrariness of that total has been disputed by the developer, who said that the brew pub, which will take up a majority of the retail space, will use a significant portion of the space for brewing beer and setting up a kitchen, not for tables.
Rached also argued that most restaurants in Red Bank have been granted variances that allow them to operate with no off-street parking available.
“A lot of facilities don’t have any parking,” Rached said. “So, to have a facility with more than adequate parking for a restaurant is a benefit to everyone.”
As Rached sees it, West Side Lofts and other retail outlets will benefit from all of the parking in the area, including what’s available on the street and in the Galleria parking lot. Danny Murphy, owner of Danny’s Steakhouse, said patrons do use the Galleria lot, but it’s often filled. If the Galleria finds issue with people using their parking spaces and not shopping there, it could cause problems, he argued.
“If there’s a parking shortfall the Galleria will have to hold hostage their parking,” Murphy said.
The issue did not reach a vote Thursday night and will return to council chambers Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m.