By JOHN T. WARD
Details of a planned makeover of White Street in Red Bank got a positive reception at a public input session Thursday evening.
Officials also offered the first public insights into the future of the adjoining municipal parking lot since a push for massive private development on the site imploded two years ago.
About two dozen business owners and residents attended an “input session” on a planned street makeover at borough hall Thursday.
Business Administrator Ziad Shehady and consulting engineer Laura Neumann of CME Associates unveiled schematics for the project, which extends from Maple Avenue east to English Plaza.
Among the highlights:
• The borough will widen the street and paint angled parking slots along the south side, which is expected to create about 22 additional spaces.
• A mid-block crosswalk will link the parking lot with the north side of the street.
It will also serve as a piece of a pedestrian pathway through the parking lot to Monmouth Street.
The crossing “will likely be” on an “elevated speed table,” that requires approaching motorists to slow down, Shehady said.
• The existing sidewalk on the south side of the street will be replaced with “access aisle,” which Shehady said would be will be “narrower, but a clearer path” than at present, given the interruptions of trees, meters, signs and other obstructions.
• About 15 trees will have to be removed, all but one on the south side. They will be replaced in landscaped “bumpouts” projecting into the road, Shehady said.
The project, estimated to cost $1.5 million and funded in part by a 2018 New Jersey Department of Transportation grant of $350,000, is intended to connect with a streetscape project completed last year by Red Bank RiverCenter within the English Plaza parking lot and along White Street from English Plaza to Broad Street.
Though no visuals were shown, Shehady and Neumann said a makeover for the 2.3-acre parking lot is also in the works, and will be done in conjunction with the streetscape.
The street-widening plan will eat into the parking lot, they said, but the lot won’t lose any of its 273 spaces. That’s because a center island in the lot will be removed and the entire layout will be shifted south.
In fact, new parking spaces may be created as a result of removing the island an closing two existing drive aisles, though the number of new spaces hasn’t yet been determined, Shehady said.
The lot was the focus of a drive for a parking deck and other development under a brief period when Republicans held a council majority. But the effort collapsed when Democrats, who opposed the garage plan, regained control in 2017.
Shehady said earlier this month that a parking deck is not out of the question for the site. But “that’s a five-year process,” and the borough “can’t not do anything” to improve the existing lots in the interim, he told redbankgreen.
In the meantime, the lot is in need of the planned upgrades, which include a repaving.
In response to a question from the audience, Shehady said the streetscape plan anticipates the possibility that a pending study of downtown traffic might recommend making White Street into a one-way.
The council awarded a $59,500 contract for the study to CME Wednesday.
Ingeborg Perndorfer, who owns the Language School on Broad Street, asked whether it wouldn’t make more sense “to plan the whole thing,” including the White Street lot, and then execute the plan in pieces, “to make sure the whole thing is designed together.”
Neumann said borough officials have created conceptual plans for the parking lot “to ensure that these [street] improvements will align with those improvements,” taking into account “streetscape, pedestrian safety and landscaping. So that has already been considered.”
The parking lot plan “is strictly in conceptual stages” but will be presented to the public before it goes to bid, Shehady said.
John Bowers, whose family owns a number of buildings on White Street, said store owners would not like to see the street made one-way.
Father John Lock, rector at the Trinity Episcopal Church, which backs up to White Street, called the crossing table “a great idea.”
Other attendees suggested the installation of bike racks; a 15-minute parking spot outside the liquor store at the corner of English Plaza; and flashing lights that activate when pedestrians are in the crossing.
RiverCenter interim director Laura Kirkpatrick praised the plan, and asked that the borough maintain communications with business owners about road closures, and try to schedule them not to interfere with festivals.
Shehady said he expects both the street and lot project to go out to bid at the same time “in a few months,” followed by the creation of a construction timetable.
Neumann said she anticipates project completion by November.