A new steakhouse is rolling into Towaco and Montville residents will soon be all aboard for a new shopping and dining experience at the
Known as Rails, the upscale eatery is scheduled to open for business in 2013 and is bringing with it a 44,000-square foot mixed-use facility called Towaco Crossing. In addition to the restaurant, the long and narrow building is designed to house up to six retail stores and six residential units.
Inspired by the 1888 inn at Glenwood Hot Springs in Colorado, the stone and timber structure will incorporate details reminiscent of grand railroad hotels throughout the American west.
“There will be a 30-foot, 30-inch in diameter log penetrating both floors of the restaurant,” the project’s architect, Anthony Garrett, of the Bilow Garrett Group in Ridgefield Park, said.
The log, which was purchased in Oregon, and is currently being stored in Pennsylvania, will support the building and act as one of many unique design elements incorporated into the restaurant’s structure.
Other elements include fire features, an open kitchen, catwalk seating, atriums, exposed timbers, open porches and outdoor seating. The three-level restaurant will also house a cheese room, meat aging room, prep kitchen, open wine cellar and specialty bar with a separate entrance at the lower level.
“This is a destination restaurant,” Garrett said.
An architect for 25 years, Garrett, 51, has lived in for 12 years. His firm, Bilow Garrett Group, designs both residential and commercial properties. Listed among the firm’s clients are BMW of Roxbury, Air Techniques and Goya Inc.
Towaco Crossing, LLC and Rails restaurant are a first-time venture for Garrett’s clients, who are local developers. Germination of Towaco Crossing began over a poker game. Having just designed a stone and timber residence in Montville, Garrett and others from the community began discussing the Montville Master Plan and the town’s desire to establish a town center in Towaco.
“We embraced the Master Plan,” Garrett said of the building’s concept. “We embraced a sense of place and a village center.”
To that end, Garrett designed Towaco Crossing with two “front” facades: one facing Whitehall Road and one facing the train tracks and Route 202.
“We’re working with NJ Transit,” Garrett said. “There will be a foot path from the tracks to the building.”
This is the vision behind the $7 million retail and residential venture.
“What could be better than coming home on the train to a beautiful restaurant?” Garrett asked. “Imagine not using your car to commute to the train, because you can walk. On the way, you stop at an for your coffee. When you get home at night you stop by Rails for dinner and then just head upstairs to your apartment. You’re home.”
Formerly a vacant lot, construction on the property began on . According to Garrett, local contractors have been chosen whenever possible to build the structure, and Job Superintendent Mike Franey has a five-minute walking commute to the site from his home in Towaco.
“We’re creating construction jobs locally, and that’s a good thing,” Garrett said. “Then, once it’s built, it will continue to create jobs with the restaurant and retail.”
Garrett admitted that the stone and timber building materials are not economical in today’s climate, but they reflect an elegance and style that is associated with grand railroad buildings. It is the spirit of the railroad that many consider to be most identifiable to Towaco, and that spirit is the element that Garrett and the developers hope to capture in the building’s design.
Garrett also noted that with a $7 million investment, the projection for recouping the investment is five to ten years. However, the Towaco Crossing team is committed to the venture’s success.
“We’re trying to create a statement here,” Garrett explained. “We live here. We’re local. We believe [Towaco Crossing] has an intrinsic value.”
The team also hopes that Towaco Crossing will generate further development of this type along the railroads.