PRESERVATION GROUP GETS SPOTLIGHT

hpc-washington1Historic Preservation Commission members Ed Zipprich, Michaela Ferrigine and George Bowden outside a old house on Washington Street. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It took a couple of years of legwork and hustle, but the efforts of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission paid off in June when the Borough Council passed an ordinance designating the Washington Street District as the borough’s first residential historic zone.

What they’ll receive on behalf of the borough tonight is like, well, the slate roof on a gingerbread Victorian.

Commission chairman George Bowden, Councilman Ed Zipprich and others are scheduled to appear at the Monmouth County Planning Board‘s annual awards ceremony at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel tonight.

They’ll be there to collect a Planning Merit Award, an honor given to towns that the board feels have made significant and positive impacts to their respective communities, said Laura Kirby, assistant planner for the county.

The volunteers, who logged more than 1,000 hours of work, think the award is justified.

“It was a long, long haul,” Bowden said.

“It’s a nice feather in our cap to be recognized,” said Zipprich, as he stood on Washington Street last week, looking around with pride at what all that work now meant. “Now we stand alone. We are the historic district.”

Bowden, along with other volunteers, began the effort three years ago by knocking on doors in the East Side neighborhood and compiling all types of information — chimney specifications, window types, foundation details — with the aim of preserving the borough’s first district where people lived and worked.

They had to prove each home’s age, and held town meetings with neighbors to make sure the process was copasetic. It was, as Bowden says, “a massive amount of work,” that wound up saving the borough about $50,000 in consultation work to inventory a total of 106 homes.

It turned out to be worth more than $50,000, because the group took their database and incorporated it into the borough’s master plan to create a historical element to it. That process, which Zipprich says often take years to get done, was done in two months.

“It blew the doors off all the consultants in the state,” Zipprich said. “It was a huge achievement on the (historic) commission’s part.”

Now, the volunteers get to reap the benefits. With the historic designation, Red Bank opens itself up for grant opportunities, home revaluations should have a positive impact and some homes may even get tax credits in certain cases. Then there’s Bowden’s personal favorite.

“One thing we were going for was community pride,” he said.

In at least the county’s eyes, mission accomplished.