Local officials say the usage mix and vacancy rates of upper floors downtown factors into parking needs and taxes. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


As the Red Bank council goes back to the drawing board in search of  parking solutions after last year’s abandoned flirtation with five developers, local officials admit they’ve got a problem upstairs.

They don’t know how much parking to allocate for upper-floor office and residential tenants downtown. Nobody, it turns out, has been keeping tabs.

Councilman Mark Taylor said he has begun an effort to get a handle on upper-floor usage downtown. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Neither the autonomous downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter nor borough hall maintains data on how much usable space exists above street level in the special improvement district, Councilman Mark Taylor said recently. Nor do they know how much of it is being utilized, let alone how it’s apportioned between office and residential users, he said.

“Right now, we have no idea,” Taylor said. “That’s what’s frightening.”

In his role this year as council liaison to the code enforcement department, Taylor said he was developing a plan to gather the information, starting with certificates of occupancy to find out who’s been approved to use space as zoned or under granted variances.

The information is critical, not only for determining the need for additional parking and where it should go, but also for its impact on taxes, said Taylor, a first-term Republican who has announced he won’t seek re-election this year.

“It ties into everything downtown,” he said. If a landlord can’t rent upper-floor space because there’s not enough parking, “it affects the value of the building, which affects the ratable for the town, which affects our taxes,” he said.

As for addressing overall parking needs, proceeding toward a solution with information about street-level occupancy only is “putting blinders on to the real problem,” Taylor said.

Democrat Eric Yngstrom, who chairs the council’s parking committee, agrees. He said the committee, which is in the hunt for a parking consultant to conduct a needs assessment and recommend solutions, will have to “will have to take into account the vacancy rates for second- and third-floors,” he said.

“Otherwise, [those users] are going to eat up all the additional parking, so we really have to do something, or we’ll be in the same boat,” Yngstrom said.

“We’ll make sure any consultant we hire takes that into consideration,” Yngstrom said.

Yngstrom said last week that the parking committee hoped to recommend a consultant for appointment at the council’s May 9 meeting, in time for the study to begin before the Count Basie Theatre embarks on a two-month construction-related shutdown in July. On Wednesday, though, he said the recommendation would be delayed until May 23, to give RiverCenter an opportunity “to meet the potential parking consultant before signing off on partially funding the project with the Borough.”

Basie spokesman Jon Vena told redbankgreen the theater would not be mounting any shows in July and August to allow for work to upgrade and modernize the stage, though the venue’s box office and other operations will continue as usual.

Meantime, RiverCenter will also contribute to the database effort, executive director Jim Scavone told redbankgreen.

While the agency represents all businesses in the special improvement district, its emphasis has long been on retail and restaurants, he said, not what’s upstairs, he said.

“We do know that the vacancy rate is higher than the street-level rate,” currently at 5.5 percent of retail space in the district, Scavone told redbankgreen

Scavone said he believed that a parking shortage “is driving the vacancy rate” on upper levels, and that in turn “is hurting the business community, because we don’t have those people in town to shop and eat.”

“We’ll make sure any consultant we hire takes that into consideration,” Yngstrom said.

Yngstrom said he expects the parking analysis to take four or five months.

“We’ve got a lot to study,” he said.