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RED BANK: SIX-MONTH BROADWALK ON HOLD

red-bank-broadwalk-082022-3-500x375-1059387RiverCenter’s proposal includes plans to boost weekday activity in the Broadwalk zone. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637A six-month season for Red Bank’s Broadwalk dining plaza would feature enhanced efforts to boost weekday visitors and battle litter, a business representative told the borough council Wednesday night.

The council, however, withheld an immediate decision on the request.

red-bank-bollards-092922-500x375-4735163The plan calls for altering the safety bollards at three intersections to allow for the removal of orange barrels. Below, two 18-wheelers parked just south of Broadwalk while making deliveries last July. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

red-bank-broad-loading-zone-072222-2-220x165-2369129Begun in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed in 2021, Broadwalk was created seasonally by shutting down the northernmost two blocks of Broad Street to vehicular traffic and allowing restaurants to set up curbside tables.

The project returned in 2022, but with a run sharply curtailed by an overdue streetscape project.

Now, with the street beautified and equipped with retractable steel bollards to block vehicles at three intersections, downtown businesses are hoping to run the plaza from May 5 through October 31, said Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter.

“We believe that Red Bank needs placemaking activities, especially in warmer months,” to compete with beach towns, including Sea Bright, Long Branch and Asbury Park, Zuckerman said. “This provides a real destination for downtown Red Bank.”

During a presentation to the governing body, Zuckerman outlined plans to address four major concerns he said have been raised by business owners and residents: anemic weekday activity in the zone; “unsightly” orange traffic barrels at key intersections; illegal parking by delivery trucks; and excessive litter.

RiverCenter’s plan to address those issues, Zuckerman said, includes:

• Erecting a  communal dining tent to enable “anyone to get takeout from anywhere” and eat outdoors. The tent would be sited in front of the vacant former CoCo Pari clothing store, he said.

In addition, RiverCenter would schedule more programming of yoga classes, kids’s activities and other events to draw visitors into the zone during the day.

• Removal of orange barrels, which are used to alert motorists to bollard, and placing higher-visibility covers over the bollards.

• Hiring additional workers to clear trash and litter from the zone “at least twice a day” and more often on weekends.

• Working with restaurants and businesses to coordinate deliveries, and asking for more prominent signage and police enforcement of loading zones.

Here’s the presentation document: Red Bank Broadwalk plan 030823

Zuckerman also asked that fees paid by businesses in the zone be held at 2022 levels, and that “streatery” fees for restaurants outside the zone be restored to 2021 rates. Following an increase in streatery fees last year, no restaurants took advantage of the street-dining option because the fees were too steep, he said.

“What all the restaurants told me the reason was the cost,” he said. One restaurateur, he said, told him she had purchased tables, chairs and other equipment in anticipation of setting up a streatery. “But then the pricetag came in, and it was going to cost her $6,000. Her response to me today was, ‘I don’t want to work for nothing.'”

Councilwoman Kate Triggiano urged her colleagues on the council to greenlight the proposal “to give businesses a head start” preparing for a May 5 launch.

Broadwalk, she said, has “overwhelming” public support, and the RiverCenter plan addresses key issues.

But the five-member majority was noncommittal. Councilmember John Jackson told Triggiano he didn’t want to make a “snap decision.”

“As far as Broadwalk itself, fantastic,” he said. “But I think, the start date, we could have ongoing conversations,” he added.

Mayor Billy Portman said he hoped the council would act at its next meeting, slated for March 22.

“The earlier we know we can move forward with this, the more programming we can do,” Zuckerman said.

During public comments, Branch Avenue resident Barbara Boas reminded the majority that it had promised last year to be “ready to go” with a decision on Broadwalk early this year.

“None of this has been done? You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said. “The people in this town love this. The people outside of town come in and spend their money here. And our merchants stay here because of this, and you’re thumbing your nose at them.”

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