Jim Scavone, left, with Mayor Pasquale Menna and Visitors Center director Margaret Mass at the opening of RiverCenter’s offices on Broad Street in October, 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Jim Scavone, who led Red Bank RiverCenter for the past six years, is leaving the downtown promotion organization.
He won’t be going far, though: he’s taking a job at Hackensack Meridian Health at Riverview Medical Center, just on the edge of special improvement district he managed.
Scavone lends a hand with raffle sales at a concert in Riverside Gardens Park in August, 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Scavone’s departure is effective January 10, the organization announced Monday.
Answering to a board of directors that represents some 400 downtown landlords, merchants and restaurateurs, RiverCenter’s executive director is also the public face of the quasi-governmental agency.
Chairman Steve Catania, owner of the Cheese Cave on Monmouth Street, said the board hadn’t had a chance to meet to discuss a strategy or timeline for filling the position.
Scavone told redbankgreen early Tuesday that he was leaving “100-percent on good terms,” and will be taking an administrative position at Riverview.
After nine years at RiverCenter, “both for myself and the organization, it’s probably going to be a good change,” he said. With the development of a new strategic plan in 2018, the organization “can bring in somebody new to shepherd them to where they want to be,” Scavone said.
In the ensuing years, Scavone said, the downtown vacancy rate has ranged from three percent to six percent, and is now at about four percent, well below the 15 percent experienced during the 2009 recession and a far cry from the late-1980s depths that gave rise to the moniker “Dead Bank.”
Scavone said the district is often perceived as having more vacancies than it does because “buildings that tend to be vacant tend to be more visible.” But smaller spaces have remained tenanted, Scavone said, noting that a recent influx of do-it-yourself arts and craft shops, along with the bustling Yestercades video game room, have added “vitality” to a district that is now also teeming with restaurants.
Scavone cited the recent completion of the $1.53 million English Plaza and White Street streetscape project and improved communications with business owners among his achievements.
Catania said Scavone excelled as a communicator and relationship-builder, “and that’s very important when you’re trying to juggle the interests of a variety of people, including business owners, landlords, elected officials, and to a certain extent, the residents.
“Jim was very adept at doing that, without creating any unnecessary rifts or divisions,” Catania said.
RiverCenter also organizes two of the town’s biggest annual events, Oysterfest and the International Flavor Festival, which each draw tens of thousands of visitors to the White Street parking lot. For the past two years, it has operated on a budget of $538,000, funded by a surtax on commercial properties in the district.