Front of old home saved; offices approved at back

BY CLARE MARIE CELANO Staff Writer

FREEHOLD — A developer has received Planning Board approval to save the most significant part of a landmark Greek Revival building at 42 E. Main St. while constructing new office space behind the historic home.

The building which likely dates from the 1830s was described as a temple front Greek Revival-style house. The structure is commonly known in Freehold Borough as the Richmond house.

The house was once owned by Dr. Benjamin Richmond.

Voting in favor of a plan that will keep the front of the Richmond house standing while providing new office space at the rear were Chairman Kevin Mulligan and board members Robert Oaks, Adam Reich, Danielle Sims, Sheryl Mott, Marjorie Goetz and Borough Councilman George Schnurr, who sits on the board.

An initial plan put forth by the developer, Fox Associates, proposed demolishing the 19th century building and replacing it with a new office building that would resemble the building being razed.

When that plan was met with objections from the public, the developer revised the plan and indicated it would retain the most historically significant portion of the Richmond house.

Fox Associates came before the Planning Board on Dec. 9 with the revised plan.

Architect Daniel Bach said the front of the Richmond house will be refurbished. The rear of the house will be demolished and replaced with new office space.

The front of the building, which is the oldest part, has been deemed the most historically significant portion by experts such as Gail Hunton, supervising historic presentation specialist with the Monmouth County Park System.

Bach said the portion of the historic home that remains will be raised to grade level in order to bring it up to code with current standards. Doing so will eliminate a flooding problem in the basement, he testified.

The building will be accessible to individuals with disabilities and will be shifted to the center of the property.

“The front entrance is then met with a transition to the next story,” he said, adding that because of the Greek Revival architectural features, one story to three stories would not be as aesthetically pleasing, therefore, the transition area allows the flow to the top of the building.

The rental areas of the building are two stories, but the rear of the building is three stories because parking is provided under the building on the first floor, raising the building to three stories, the architect explained.

Bach said decorative cornices and columns will be crafted around the building to retain the historic character of the structure.

Reich asked if Dr. Richmond’s name would be anywhere within the structure.

Attorney Bill Mehr, representing the applicant, said there will be a collection of historic memorabilia in the lobby of the building.

Bashkar Hilari of Concept Engineering described the

property, its location and the landscaping that will be provided.

Freehold Borough requires 26 parking spaces for an office building of this size; 22 spaces are provided, necessitating a waiver for four spaces.

During the public portion of the meeting, resident Wayne Mason, who had previously voiced his opposition to the proposed razing of the Richmond home, said he was glad to see that part of the original building would be included in the Fox Associates project.

Sims said she believes the project is in accordance with Freehold Borough’s redevelopment plan and will be beneficial to the town.

The location at 42 E. Main St. is in an area of Freehold Borough that has been designated as a redevelopment zone.

Reich commended the applicant on what he called the innovative idea of building up and providing parking underneath the second floor.

Schnurr and Goetz thanked the professionals who were involved in the application. They said they appreciated the steps taken to accommodate the different agencies in the borough and looked forward to the project being completed.

The new construction at the rear of the Richmond house will provide 10,800 square feet of office space.

Borough Council President Marc Le Vine said he was pleased by the board’s decision.

“We all learned a very valuable lesson from this entire experience. We don’t need to sacrifice our past in order to satisfy our future. Perhaps the reason that so many of these grand old buildings have survived for so long is that, ironically, they often adapt to change better than many of us do,” Le Vine said.