Its ad-sales staff is probably still wetting itself with glee, but the editorial board of the Asbury Park Press today offers faint praise for the news last month that Tiffany & Company plans to open a store in downtown Red Bank.

In an editorial today about a tentative plan by Red Bank RiverCenter to install Smart Card dispensers (which the editorial writers favor) appears this somewhat incongruous paragraph:

The new Tiffany & Co. store may be a nice draw for Red Bank, but officials should make sure too many upscale shops don’t drive out old favorites. Prown’s, the variety store that had everything, is as missed today as much as it was when it closed four years ago.

Never mind that the paragraph is a non sequitur (it’s not made clear what Tiffany has to do with Smart Card machines). There’s a radical notion woven into the warm-and-fuzzies expressed n those two sentences.

Old Prown’s is missed. And the balkanization of Broad Street into a place for haves-only is a legitimate societal concern — though it’s not universally agreed that that is, in fact, happening here any more than in other successful downtowns.

But what, in particular, might “officials” do to fulfill the Press’s call for an end to “too much” economic Darwinism, whereby “old favorites” get driven out by successful, if high-priced, newcomers?

Should Red Bank, for example, establish retail set-asides along the lines of affordable housing mandates, requiring landlords to lease, say, 200 square feet of space to a dollar-shoe store for every 1,000 feet they lease to the likes of Tiffany?

Should criteria be set, such as the average price of merchandise offered, that cannot be exceeded, lest the police be dispatched to issue a summons?

Or should the building department simply send engraved rejection notes to upscale stores requesting permits once a threshhold limit of such stores has been reached?

And who exactly are these “officials” who might be entrusted to engineer and manage this economic balancing act? The Press edit board doesn’t say.

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