Six buildings off the Fort Monmouth entrance at Oceanport Avenue in Eatontown that once served as the fort’s barracks will become a hub of arts, culture, and entertainment under the vision of Kenneth Schwartz, owner of the Detour Gallery in Red Bank. Known primarily for his ownership of the area’s World Auto Group car dealerships, Schwartz has been an arts and antiques collector and patron for over 40 years.
Schwartz recently sold his auto dealerships but retained ownership of the land. He is currently converting a former stair factory on Red Bank’s Drs. James Parker Boulevard into an additional artists’ space that will operate in conjunction with the Detour Gallery downtown on Clay Street he opened last year after two years of work to renovate a long-vacant commercial building.
Schwartz’s plans to acquire the barracks and convert the 4.4-acre site into an “active arts community” have been in the works for about a year. FMERA officials said earlier this year that, while they did not initially envision such a use for the barracks, they found Schwartz’s proposals worthy of consideration. He was the sole bidder on the Semaphore Avenue location near the fort’s former marina, now redeveloped and re-opened as the waterfront Marina at Oceanport restaurant and bar that also offers small craft rentals in season. The World War II-era barracks total approximately 25,000 square feet.
“I was raised in this area and wanted to do this project,” Schwartz said. “Some of the soldiers stationed here were my customers at the auto dealerships. When the fort closed it was like a cold wind came through the area; it generated a lot of nervousness. I saw the barracks they intended to rip down. I’ve been all over the world and have seen people take such sites and turn them into an arts and cultural community.” Schwartz’s plans include studios and galleries for dance, music, arts, and spaces for artists to create and show their works, augmented by classes, seminars, and other related activities. “It will be Woodstock without the pot,” he joked
- Story by Laura D.C. Kolnoski, tworivertimes.com
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