Stanhope House owner seeks best of both worlds

STANHOPE. Jon Klein hopes another music venue may be found nearby if the historic building is demolished as planned.

| 30 Mar 2024 | 04:30

Despite continued calls from area residents and others to save the Stanhope House, owner Jon Klein said plans to demolish the music venue at 45 Main St. have not changed.

He reiterated the need for new retail and residential uses to strengthen existing retail areas along Main Street while acknowledging the need to keep the memory, and maybe the music, of the Stanhope House alive.

“As far as I know, everything is status quo since you and I last spoke in December,” Klein said recently when asked about any new developments regarding his historic property.

“I must say, I was at a town meeting a couple weeks ago and there were about 35 people there, and I would say 10 or 12, many of whom I do not think are residents, spoke up for saving the Stanhope House. I got up and let them know that the Stanhope House is under contract, and if the developer gets the approvals that it has asked for, the Stanhope House will be demolished. If I could save it and it made sense, believe me, I would. I love the Stanhope House. I have been making blues music since 1956.”

Built in the 1790s, the Stanhope House had served as a private home, stagecoach stop, general store, post office, tavern, rooming house and hotel until 1970, when it became a legendary blues venue that has hosted performers such as Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The venue, while still active, is a shell of its former self, and options for the future of the property are being discussed.

After being approached last year by Klein of BGK Realty Group, the property’s owner, the borough’s Land Use Board designated the site as an “area in need of redevelopment.” A redevelopment plan was put together in October by Bowman Consulting Group of Parsippany.

The plan, which Klein said has not changed, says:

• Permitted uses for the property include multifamily residential use, retail sales of goods on the ground floor and services, such as a bank, barbershop, professional offices, etc. Parking amenities, including electric-car parking, would support the site.

• Prohibited uses include a gas station, drive-thru establishments, laundromats, convalescent homes/adult and child day care, third-party cell-phone tower and “adult” entertainment.

Klein, who has owned the property since 2010, said he spent the better part of the past five years trying to find a buyer, acquire grant money and establish a not-for-profit organization for the educational community to conduct tutorials on the blues.

“We’ve tried any number of things to do that which was necessary to make sure that the building would get to being structurally efficient rather than deficient,” he said. “We’ve tried virtually everything over the last five years, and now we are to the point where this redevelopment zoning will probably be the best thing that can happen for everybody. No sale has occurred, but the developer, as I have said, is the purchaser under contract and if they tell us to leave, we have 60 days to vacate.”

What Klein is really seeking is the best of both worlds, he said.

“As unfortunate as it is, the venue has had its day. But there is a middle ground here, which I would love to see, in which we could find another spot nearby to carry on the blues while turning over the current property to the developer, who can increase the tax money coming into the town.

“We pay about $22,000 in taxes a year at the Stanhope House. After 30 years, when the site is redeveloped and is putting over $220,000 a year into the town via taxes - we are talking yearly $6 million into the town through taxes versus some $600,000 at what we are paying now.”