RIVERCENTER EXEC TO MEET WEST SIDERS

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The special assessments are being collected — and have been since last September.

Now,
Red Bank RiverCenter is moving to solicit input from business owners in the West Side expansion zone about how those funds might best be spent to boost the district.

RiverCenter, the overseer of both the original downtown special improvement district and now its western portion, has invited merchants, restaurateurs and property owners covered by the expansion to a pair of brainstorming sessions to be held this week at Racioppi’s restaurant on Oakland Street, next to the train station.

“We’re trying to do an outreach,” says RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams. “I just want to hear from them what the issues are on the West Side.”

The idea is to get business owners to air out their goals for the district in terms of physical improvements, marketing, and special events, says Adams.

From her perspective, she hopes to inform the participants what RiverCenter is all about — the scope of its responsibilities, how it operates, and what role the special assessment plays in supporting that.

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In addition to the usual property tax, commercial properties in the special improvement district pay an added levy of 20.4 cents per $100 of assessed property value, or $1,020 per year for a property worth $500,000. This year’s RiverCenter budget is $604,000. There’s no prior apportionment of spending by East and West Side, according to officials.

“But he money is really an insignificant part of this,” Adams tells redbankgreen. “It’s really participation” by volunteers that effects change, she says.

Money, though, has in the past made a difference in getting businesses to repair or spruce up their facades, Adams says. With that in mind, she’s proposing in the proposed 2008 budget that RiverCenter reinstitute a deactivated facade improvement grant program.

Under the program, business owners could obtain perhaps $1,000 or $2,000 to give their stores makeovers. The program is expected to have a budget of $12,000, if approved by RiverCenter’s board of directors March 3.

Adams, who lives in Maplewood and joined RiverCenter in her post last Oct. 1, also views the sessions as a way to better familiarize herself with the faces of business owners. She replaced Tricia Rumola, the ricia Rumola, longtime agency head who left to take a job with a New York City charitable organization.

Invitations were mailed to all affected businesses in the expansion zone recently. The “visioning” sessions, as Adams terms them, are not open to the general public or the press.

The first is tomorrow, Tuesday, at 8:30a; the second is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30p. Each is expected to run for about 90 minutes.

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