SADDLE RIVER — The borough's circa 1840 hardware store on East Allendale Road, vacant since 2016, was torn down on Wednesday to make way for a wellness center.
The project on the borough's main thoroughfare received a certificate of appropriateness from its Landmarks Commission last September and was approved by the borough's Zoning Board of Adjustment in December. It also received approvals from the Bergen County Planning Board and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
A resident of the borough and the owner of the property, Frank Ciminello, trading as Cimi Properties LLC, said he had no idea what he was in for when he bought the property at 70 E. Allendale Road three years ago.
"We thought we could save it," Ciminello said. "We even talked about raising the building to protect it, which we thought would look odd, a building on stilts. But we had a couple of tropical storms come through with water over the windows and the pressure warped the floorboards and knocked out the support posts. I had the engineers and architects come in to see if we could save it. The answer was no."
The building was posted as unsafe in March 2022, and plans for a replacement building were processed.
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"Even if we could repair it, it would have eventually been swept away and become a debris danger to other properties," said Ciminello's engineer Tibor Latincisics. "The state's DEP just raised the design flood elevation by 3 feet in July, and the new building will be raised 7 feet so water can pass under it. We're able to salvage the siding, and the new building will be along the same design and footprint, even the same Barnstable Maroon color."
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Ciminello's wife, Nicole Anderson, will partner with fellow physician Kelly Blundy overseeing offices in the new building where they will advise patients with a variety of physical ailments on lifestyle changes to minimize medications.
"Initially, we will be focused around a six-week program to help people learn the importance of managing stress, taking care of your mind and your body, first and foremost with what you should be putting in your refrigerator and how you should be preparing your foods," Anderson said. "I really want this center also to start creating programs for children in our community again, where we teach our kids these important things early on."
The building is part of the nationally-registered Saddle River Center Historic District that includes Barnstable Court across the street, and houses on West Saddle River Road north of East Allendale Road. First known at the Woodruff Packer Foundry manufacturing plow shares and wagon wheels, the building was constructed over a horizontal water wheel that allowed it to harness the Saddle River to power its furnace.
The business shifted to sleighs and wagons in the 1880s as the W.W. Packer and Son factory and was sold to the Deare Manufacturing Company around 1900.
The historic district is one of only two remaining in Bergen County that have retained their pre-1930 architectural authenticity as a rural commercial/residential hamlet. The store was the magnet around which the borough developed.
The hardware store will not be the only building to be replaced in the historic district. The Coach House Gift Shop across the street burned to the ground in January 1987. Originally owned by industrialist William Packer, the mid-1800s structure was duplicated in a new building on the property.