The re-invention of Route 36 in Middletown as a vibrant economic and community hub starts taking shape with a public meeting, Tuesday at 7 PM in the Middletown Arts Center.

Middletown Arts Center Building

Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger is anxious to hear what's in the minds and imaginations of residents and taxpayers as the revitalization initiative gathers steam.

Proximal to the Gateway National Recreational Area at Sandy Hook, the Route 36 corridor sustains busy traffic every summer. Highway frontage, for many passers-by, represents the community behind it. For Middletown, says the mayor, the representation isn't totally accurate. He says that residents have a "blank canvas" to create a new image.

Thriving businesses, shops and light-purpose factories share space with residences and community-oriented centers. But there are gaps, and township officials are looking to taxpayers for ideas on how to fill them.

"We want to see the whole corridor redeveloped," he related. "There's a lot of vacant properties, a lot of older properties, and some abandoned properties, that are really tired-looking, and they become a drain on the township."

The drain goes beyond dollars and cents, Scharfenberger adds. "The township certainly loses revenues, but the residents are very disturbed by it. They don't like to see a sort-of tattered look to the corridor. We're looking for input from residents, to see what they want, to see what their vision is."

This doesn't mean a wholesale upheaval. Scharfenberger bears strong affection for the entities that anchor the stretch of highway, year-in, year-out.

"Certainly, you have recreational-type facilities," he noted, which prosper through their closeness to the shore. "There are residential developments along there, there are small businesses. There are even a few manufacturing businesses. The VFW, the American Legion have offices along there. All of these are things we would like to see expanded, new ones come in, older ones get a facelift."

Comments and suggestions will be collated by a consultant, after a presentation about the present state of the corridor. That will lead to a followup public meeting, in which residents will see how their recommendations were interpreted and encapsulated.

"It's a very conscious effort to include everybody, to ensure that they're aware of what people are saying, and what we're taking away from it."

The information will also be available to relevant state and federal agencies, as well as community members, who can help township officials solidify and launch the ambitious plans.

The mayor hopes for a solid turnout Tuesday evening. "We hope to get a good cross-section...and really see what they would like to see there."

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