WESTFIELD, NJ — A landmark building at 321 Elm St. that once housed the local Red Cross was demolished last week, making way for new construction.
Neal Acito, who sits on the Historic Preservation Commission, captured the demolition on video:
The property is owned by Ralph Rapuano of Elegant Homes and is zoned for a two-family residence, according to Town Planner Donald Sammet. Rapuano first appeared in front of the Westfield Board of Adjustment on March 14 with several variance requests on the property. Many community members went to the meeting to learn more about the proposed building plans and to express their concerns over the future of the property.
“I chose to adjourn the meeting in an attempt to address some of the ideas and concerns,” Rapuano said. “The hope is to put something there that actually has some Victorian presence.”
The demolished house was built in the Victorian style. According to Rapuano, he met with the Historic Preservation Commission along with neighbors to gather ideas about what to do with the property, including the possibility of restoring the building. He said that the home had been turned into an office building with no kitchen and no full bathrooms.
“Not only was it financially unrealistic, but it was also structurally unsound,”Rapuano said. Restoring the building, he said, “made no sense.”
Rapuano said that he is revisiting the original renderings that will require fewer variances, but he is still applying for attached garages and a possible variance on building height.
“We could put up a cookie-cutter, but we don’t want to do that,” he said. “We can do something that really looks spectacular.”
Currently the plans are on hold until Rapuano finalizes them, which he says will address some of the residents’ concerns and include some ideas that he heard at the initial board of adjustment meeting.