By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s chaotic English Plaza and White Street area may become a part-time oasis under a concept plan unveiled Wednesday night.
Working with a $500,000 zero-interest loan from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Red Bank RiverCenter also aims to make the space safer for pedestrians an motorists, officials told the borough council.
The plan, showing English Place at top and White Street at left, envisions a parking area that could double as event space in the center of English Plaza. Below, a view of the lot from West Front Street. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Among the goals of the project are to improve safety where there are “a lot of people walking within the parking area;” improve vehicular circulation; and address inadequate lighting, drainage issues and tripping hazards, said project engineer Jaclyn Flor, CEO of Broad Street-based Engenuity Infrastructure.
Appearing at the council’s semimonthly meeting, Flor ran through a presentation on the current status of the project, which is has whittled six concept plans down to one, she said.
That concept came about after 24 one-on-one meetings with stakeholders: property owners and merchants, borough officials, resident representatives and others, Flor said.
“Ultimately, what we heard was that people really wanted to balance out the space” with a wide pedestrian path through English Plaza, connecting Monmouth Street and West Front Street, she said.
That would require relocating one entrance to the White Street parking lot to align with the English Plaza entry, Flor said.
“Someone said we’ll be able to follow the yellow brick road — though it will be a red brick road,” from Riverside Gardens to the brick path that runs beside the Dublin House, Flor said. “So it provides a connection, a pedestrian connection that we thought really enhanced the area.”
A reconfiguration of the English Plaza parking layout and other changes would increase the number of spots by seven, Flor said. It would also allow for easy conversion of the center portion for events such as farm markets, she said.
“It’s a wide-open space that can be programmed,” she said.
Another suggestion that the plan accommodates is to give the road surface of White Street between English Plaza and Broad Street a brick or other distinctive treatment so that it could be closed down “once a month or so,” for car-free events, Flor said.
The proposal addresses concerns about loading zones; and adds “street furniture” and LED lighting; and provides locations for bike-sharing, shade trees and public art, Flor said.
Noting that there are “critics” of RiverCenter, which manages the town’s special improvement district, Mayor Pasquale Menna said the plan would not have come about without the quasi-public organization. It’s “one that benefits all of our community, not just the downtown,” he said.
In response to a question from former council member Cindy Burnham, Flor said the project does not include shelters for parking pay stations because of budgetary constraints, “but it’s something we can consider again.”
Menna said the borough had reached out to Monmouth County, which owns West Front Street, about upgrading the crosswalk there with improved markings, lighting and signage.