By JOHN T. WARD
The votes are in, and Red Bank is the most popular downtown in central New Jersey, according to the state chapter of the American Planning Association.
In online voting, the borough outpolled Asbury Park by just 35 votes, out of nearly 6,900 cast, with Somerville close behind in the three-way contest.
The designation is another feather in the cap for the borough, which was named the third-best small town in America by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012. It’s also something Red Bank RiverCenter can leverage in its efforts to fill store vacancies and bring in shoppers, said executive director Jim Scavone.
“It’s just a little more exposure, and all those sorts of things help,” Scavone told redbankgreeen Tuesday. “And I’m glad Red Bank is recognized, because it is a great destination.”
Dubbed the ‘2014 People’s Choice awards for Great Downtowns in New Jersey,’ the competition aimed to identify the most popular shopping district in the northern, central and southern regions of the state, according to announcement by APA-NJ.
The organization said a panel of planning professionals selected the finalists from downtowns nominated by the public in July.
“In reviewing the nominations,” the organization said in a press release, “the panel considered how well each downtown excels in the characteristics of a great downtown, including how well it functions as the centerpiece in the everyday life of the community; its reputation for excellence beyond the community’s boundaries; its vitality during the day, in the evening and on weekends; accessible parking and transportation alternatives; and support from the community to attract, retain and grow businesses.”
The results: Red Bank got 2,325 votes, or 33.8 percent of the total cast for the central region of the state. Asbury Park pulled in 2,290, or 33.3 percent, and Somerville was just 20 votes behind, at 2,270, or 33 percent.
“I have to say, aside from winning, it’s a great thing, because it creates awareness of downtowns and local economies, which is obviously the goal,” Scavone said of the planning group’s effort.
The results weren’t nearly as close in voting for the best downtown in northern New Jersey, won by Hoboken, and the southern part of the state, handily won by Asbury Avenue in Ocean City. See the results here.