Downtown Red Bank’s big comeback might start with parking space
One small shore town is looking to make a comeback. It’s known for its glamorous restaurants, famous delis, bars and entertainment. This shore town is Red Bank, a big hot spot for tourists and locals.
When you drive up and down Broad Street you instantly see all of the hustle and bustle. That hustle and bustle isn’t a negative for any shore community. But what happens when you need that one parking spot? If it doesn't keep up with changing demographics, the genteel Dr. Jekyll that is Red Bank begins to veer toward Mr. Hyde territory.
Well, Red Bank may get that facelift that people wanted to see for many years. It may be a parking garage on White Street that launches its fresh identity.
Red Bank Councilman Mike Whelan was one of the leaders to help get this redevelopment plan passed.
“You need the downtown to be booming, you need them to not just survive, you need them to thrive. If you understand the commercial tax base, If you can grow the commercial tax space we can actually have the residents benefit from it.”
Whelan has been working on this idea for the past 11 months. Just last week, Red Bank officials passed a redevelopment plan, and they can now solicit requests for proposals. This is huge win for the whole town, especially the business community.
Red Bank is making baby steps to its downtown, keeping pace with massive strides in neighboring shore towns. Whelan points the two hot spots in Asbury Park, Ocean Avenue and Cookman Avenue.
“They're 'on fire' right now. It’s, like, every week and every month it's something new opening. “
Whelan mentioned Jared Kushner, and how he’s going to redevelop The Monmouth Mall in Eatontown and Pier Village in Long Branch. Everywhere you go, the competition is growing, and those who hesitate are lost. Red Bank officials are determined to get on track and draw new businesses and clientele.
“We can’t have our businesses leave us, we need to create that competitive environment for them to thrive.”
Whelan said that Red Bank needs spark to keep from going stale. Conditions haven't changed for most of the last decade. Whelan loves Red Bank. He mentioned The Count Basie Theater, the restaurants, shops and its elegant charm. But with that, there’s so much that can be done.
When it’s time to send out proposal requests to developers, Whelan hopes he receives droves of them. He wants to pick the most creative, innovative and forward thinking plan - the plan can help with parking, building residential space and business space.
“People want to live in a downtown, you want to be able to walk outside of a apartment, shop, eat, play in the town you live in and even work. Just to put in perspective, I don’t think there's ever been a redevelopment plan in Red Bank's history. In the last two months, we passed two.”
This is a giant leap for Red Bank, and Whelan is looking forward for the community and residential input. He contends that if everyone comes together and shares their ideas, Red Bank is going to get the changes that it really needs.
“Now we can actually take this redevelopment plan and breathe some life into it. Now we can get this proposals and see what they actually look like, and that’s a huge step. When you just have words on paper you can’t kind of vision, you don’t get that vision, you just see words.”
Whelan touched on the business and residential side, but what about parking? Many Red Bank residents are currently holding the big question mark above their head. The Red Bank parking issue has been over a three-decade problem that every business owner deals with and every resident deals with.
When people think of new parking space, they instantly think of a parking garage that looks like cement block with no special architecture design.
“They made garages pretty beautiful looking, It’s weird to say about a garage but towns, municipalities and cities have gotten really creative. I think it’s just a huge step to now at least to be able to see what this would look like.”
For Whelan, it’s important that residents see the possible design because many have a skewed vision about it. He mentioned that the need for extra parking is common knowledge. People are just worried about how it’s going to be done.
“Do we need a garage, do we not need a garage, who’s going to pay for it? How is it going to be funded? “ All questions that one would expect in any dialogue on the subject.
Whelan loves the argument on “How,” because that’s how you can start playing with ideas. He wants everyone to come together and work on this project as a team.
Whlean said that the redevelopment plan calls for about 500 new parking spaces. Red Bank is packed during the course of the entire day. It can be impossible to find a spot . Many major highways connect right to White Street, Monmouth Street and Broad Street. It’s heavily congested and adding these 500 spots can help.
“So you can let everybody know you can come to Red Bank and be in the heart of the downtown, find a parking spot. You’re going to help with the traffic and congestion.”
Instead of circling around Red Bank, seemingly endlessly, hunting for space on side streets, visitors might soon park in a new, revamped, common area. No parking problem is ever fixed, but this can help diminish the issue.
In the next two to three months, Whelan expects to see a bigger, more complete redevelopment picture. Once Red Bank officials pick a couple of proposals, they will display them and seek residents' opinions. Whlean says that they will keep the process out in the open - like those new parking spots he hopes to see.