BLOWING UP THE KABOOM FUNDING MODEL

KaboomcrowdLast year’s show, as seen from Maple Avenue and West Front Street.

First, there will be fireworks in Red Bank this year.

Though organizers of the July 3 KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink recently expressed concern about the future of the event because of a sharp drop in corporate sponsorships, they’re closing in on their goal of raising funds to cover this year’s nut.

But the widespread economic collapse made this year’s production more of a white-knuckle endeavor than organizers have grown used to, as formerly fat-walleted corporate sponsors vanished. That’s prompted a rethinking of how the fireworks show is financed.

This year, organizers are reaching out directly to viewers of the show, which is billed as the largest in New Jersey and fourth-largest in the U.S. as measured in the number of shells fired — more than 10,000, lofted by the estimable Jersey-based firm of Garden State Fireworks.

Landing in some 47,000 area business and residential mailboxes this week is a direct appeal for support from individuals. redbankgreen spoke recently with Peter Reinhart, chairman of KaBoom’s 15-member, all-volunteer organizing committee, about the effort.

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HOVNANIAN SLASHES LOSS, BUT STILL AILS

HovHovnanian's headquarters on West Front Street.

Red Bank-based Hovnanian Enterprises sharply cut its net loss in the quarter ended April 30, compared to year-prior levels.

But the publicly traded homebuilder continued to slash prices in the face of contract cancellations and write-downs on the value of real estate in its inventory.

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NOW FLEXING: MUSCLE MAKER GRILL

Musclemaker2‘The Godfather,’ a chicken dish from the low-carb section of the menu.

Musclemaker1Stores and other businesses may still be slinking out of Red Bank in the dead of night, but there are signs of economic strength, too.

The latest is the bizarrely-named Muscle Maker Grill, a restaurant that opened its West Front Street doors on Wednesday.

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NEW RAIL LINK WOULD TIE IN AT RED BANK; BOROUGH OFFICIALS VOW TO DERAIL PLAN

RB RR signThe Red Bank station would be the northern terminus of a new commuter line from Lakehurst, linking central Ocean County to the North Jersey Coast Line.

Over the vehement objections of Red Bank officials, proponents of a new commuter rail line  that would link Lakehurst with points north yesterday designated the borough railroad station as a terminus.

Creation of the line would add some 40 grade crossings a day in Red Bank, creating havoc for automotive traffic, said Councilman Mike DuPont.

The so-called Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex, or MOM line, would also worsen the economic divide between the west and east sides of town at a time when the local government and business interests are working to erase it, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

DuPont and Menna vowed to fight the plan, which was advanced yesterday as part of three-county "compromise" that removed the possibility of the line actually being built into Middlesex County, one of three routes under consideration.

"It's going to be the seminal issue for this area," Menna said at Tuesday's bimonthly council session. "It's just not going to happen."


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URBAN: A PERFECT FIT FOR DOWNTOWN?

 2Broad0209 The future home of Urban Outfitters, as seen in late February. 

In signing Urban Outfitters to take over the ground floor of a prominent Red Bank address, building owner Keith Alliotts has finally bagged what many retailers have long said is most needed downtown: a national chain with just the right amount of name recognition.

That is to say, one that's big without being everywhere you look, yet has the cachet of an out-of-the way boutique.

"You won't have a national that is in every mall in America," says Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, which markets the downtown. "This is one of the few nationals that prefers to be in a downtown."

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URBAN OUTFITTERS INKS RED BANK DEAL

2-10 BroadWhen the wraps come off, the retailer is expected to occupy all the street-level space formerly divided among four businesses. 

After months of speculation, it’s official: Urban Outfitters is coming to Red Bank, delivering what retailers hope will be a caffeine jolt of foot traffic to an increasingly lethargic downtown scene.

Keith Alliotts, owner of 2-10 Broad Street, confirmed today that the youth-market clothing and apartment-goods retailer has signed a multiyear lease on 10,000 square feet of street-level retail.

He told redbankgreen that Urban would be taking possession of the space in the late summer or early fall, and “they’ll probably have a few months” worth of customizing to do before opening for business.

The deal, which had been said to be pending for months, has been widely viewed as a potential game-changer for the business district, which has seen as many as 40 storefronts vacant in recent months. 

Business owners regard Urban as a powerful magnet able to draw not only large crowds of young, credit-card wielding shoppers and their parents into town, but household starters on a budget. They’re drawn by the store’s offerings of bedding, tableware and other items.

“Wow, that’s wonderful news,” said Margaret Mass, director of the Red Bank Visitors Center. “It couldn’t come at a better time. We’ll be expecting lots of new visitors.”

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BOATING OUTLOOK: SEMI-BOUYANT

Video documentarian Bill Day is back with another short, this time focusing on the impact of the recession on boaters and the vendors who depend on them in Red Bank.

Among the locals interviewed are John Matteo and Chann Irwin of Irwin Marine, which is hosting a boat show this weekend.

Day, a borough resident, also shot the video we ran back in early March about an appearance at a Middletown liquor store by John 'Cha Cha' Ciarcia, an actor from 'The Sopranos.'

You can see more of Day's work at his YouTube channel.

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RESTAURANT TAKES THYME SPACE

Via45-2Claudette Herring and Lauren Phillips-Daly in the doorway of their soon-to-be restaurant, Via 45.

The closing of Thyme Square restaurant in Red Bank a few months back was so abrupt that, until about a week ago, one could still peer into the windows and see an artificial Christmas tree and table settings awaiting the next seating of diners.

Prompted by a tragic death in the family of owners Rona and Steve Rosenstein, the departure left a particular void for devotees of chef James Corona, who opened the Broad Street restaurant with the couple in July, 2006. He ran the place, set its Mediterranean stylings, and quickly worked it onto culinary must-visit lists.

The interval since the closing has only seen a deepening of the recession, during which the annual rite of restaurant and retail turnover has been especially Darwinian, littering the business district with some 40 empty storefronts at last count.

So it is somewhat unexpected to learn that a new restaurant will be opening in the space in the next month or so.

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BOROUGH HALL GOING TO FOUR-DAY WEEK

Hot TopicRed Bank employees who work in borough hall at 90 Monmouth Street will have to start packing their workweeks into four days starting in June as part of an effort to cut utility costs.

The move, approved by the borough council on Monday, is expected to save up to $3,000 a month in air conditioning and heating-related expenses, says borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

The effort is envisioned as a trial for the summer but may be continued if the savings materialize as expected without adversely affecting the delivery of services, Sickels says.

“If it works out, we’ll keep doing it,” he says.

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GALLERIA PLANS PARKING GARAGE, OFFICES

GallerialotWith a parking deck topped by two floors of offices, Galleria Park would connect to the existing building via a two-level footbridge. Below, a view of the proposed structure from West Front Street. (Click to enlarge)

The nation's economy may be stalled and the real estate market on life support, but the owners of the Galleria

Red Bank apparently see opportunity in their asphalt-covered soil.

GalleriagaragenorthThey've submitted plans to the Red Bank planning department for a structure to be built at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and West Front Street that would nearly double the footprint of the 120,000-square-foot shopping and office mecca.

On that 2.7-acre parcel — a parking lot that is home to the Galleria-sponsored Farmers' Market in summer and autumn — would rise a 4.5-level, 102,000-square-foot parking garage topped by a 39,000-square-foot, two-story office building. The structure would connect to the existing Galleria by an enclosed footbridge.

Dubbed 'Galleria Park,' the project is likely to set off alarms among motorists whose commute through the often-congested intersection of Shrewsbury Avenue and West Front Street is often slowed to a crawl.

It may also displease those who'd like to see more 'park' and less building at the corner. The developers are seeking variances that would put the structure close to the sidewalks on two sides.

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METROPOLITAN TURNS TO RENTAL MARKET

Metropolitan1208The aim is to boost occupancy in the luxury building, a spokeswoman says. A sign at the entrance (below) now touts lease deals. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank's Metropolitan condo project, having failed to attract buyers both through conventional sales methods and a much-ballyhooed auction, is now renting out units.

Leasing activity at the three-story, 37-unit Wallace Street building kicked off Sunday to a "tremendous" response and "excellent rental activity," says Christa Segalini, a spokeswoman for the project.

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GRIM AND GRIMMER: LOCALS WEIGH IN

Corzine031009Gov. Jon Corzine during his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday. (Photo by Tim Larsen)

Is there a New Jerseyan anywhere who savors the words “state budget?” In these economic times, the phrase is apt to turn even the darkest mood more dour.

Which perhaps explains why, when asked by redbankgreen for their thoughts on Gov. Jon Corzine’s plan to narrow the $7 billion budget gap, more than half the people we spoke to on the streets of downtown Red Bank Wednesday said they hadn’t tuned into or read news or analysis of the plan.

Still, we were intent on taking the temperature of the citizenry, so we asked people for their thoughts on either the Corzine plan — which would eliminate the property tax deduction for one year and dramatically cut the number of homeowners getting the annual Homestead Rebate — or the general condition of state government finances.

Their answers appear after the jump. Meantime, here’s the text of Corzine’s speech to the Legislature Tuesday, and here’s the budget in brief: Download Abbrevbudget

Streeters031109

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HOVNANIAN LOSSES CONTINUE CLIMB

Hov_hq_81206Hovnanian’s head office, as seen from the foot of Maple Avenue.

Red Bank-headquartered Hovnanian Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest homebuilding companies, saw its losses accelerate in the most recent quarter.

The company posted a net loss of $178.4. million in its second fiscal quarter, up from $130.9 million a year ago.

On a per-share basis, the most recent shortfall equated to $2.29, versus last year’s $2.07. Polled analysts had expected a loss of $1.47 per share, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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PLEASE FEED/DON’T FEED THE METERS

Meter1It wasn't hard to find visitors pumping coins into meters in Red Bank's White Street lot at lunchtime last Saturday. Above, Nicole Collman of Manalapan, left, with Rebecca Route of Jamesburg.

With some fanfare, Mayor Pasquale Menna announced at last month's 'Economic Summit' that parking in downtown Red Bank would be free on Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of 2009.

Meters4Never mind that it was already free on Sundays. The move to free slottage on the busiest shopping day of the week was welcomed by merchants as a small but significant move to make the town more competitive in a tough economy.

But one month after the meter moratorium was imposed, visitors to town are still feeding the meters on Saturdays. And some of them want to know why no one told them don't have to.

"Oh, that stinks," said Mirelynne Meiser of East Brunswick, when informed she'd just unnecessarily put six quarters into a meter. "That really stinks."

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MENNA: ‘DARN CLOSE’ TO GARAGE FIX

MennaMayor Pasquale Menna speaks as RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams looks on.

Through all the reports that things are worse elsewhere and exhortations that merchants find “opportunity” in the current recession, the topic that the 300 or so people who attended Tuesday night’s ‘economic summit‘ on Red Bank’s commercial woes most wanted addressed, apparently, was parking.

Mayor Pasquale Menna came through, first with an announcement that parking at metered spaces would be free on Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of 2009, and then with hints that the parking garage many merchants have clamored for may move back onto the town’s agenda after several years’ absence.

His past opposition to a parking deck at the site of the White Street municipal lot, he says, has always been based on this insistence that it not be paid for by taxpayers, and that it be “self sustaining.”

Now, he says, “I believe we’re pretty darn close to a number of different scenarios which will alleviate those concerns,” he said to applause near the end of the two-hour event at the Count Basie Theatre.

Menna’s comments followed an emphatic “yes” from Jerry Zaro, chief of the state Office of Economic Growth,  when asked if such a garage might qualify for federal or state stimulus funds.

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DOES RED BANK NEED A ‘HIP’ TRANSPLANT?

IMG_1659 Big Bill Morganfield performs at the 2007 Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival. Which is hipper, jazz or blues? Or is it the festival itself that’s ‘hip?’

Parking shortages. Exorbitant parking fines. Red tape at borough hall. Greedy landlords.

Among the many peeves, public floggings and constructive suggestions we expect to hear aired at tonight’s “economic summit” on how to revive Red Bank’s sagging commercial fortunes, one topic is unlikely to get much attention:

What to do about the relentless use of the word ‘hip’ to describe our little burg.

‘Hip City.’ ‘Hip Town.’ They’re the go-to phrases for phoned-in yet earnest descriptions of Red Bank like this one, and this one. And a thousand others, it seems.

Then there’s the TriCity News out of Asbury Park, which puts ‘Hip City’ in sardonic quotation marks — yet is as boosterish about Red Bank as any chamber of commerce shill, suggesting that, deep down, it kinda likes the label.

Now, to be sure, with the national economy spiraling drainward and Red Bank showing no sign of bucking the tide, there are bigger and more substantive issues at stake here than semantics. No argument there.

But as long as we’re talking about a possible repositioning of downtown Red Bank in the public imagination, can somebody please come up with something better? How do we put an end to this plague of purported hipposity?

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PLUG PULLED EARLY ON AUCTION

Auction
Prospective buyers packed a ballroom at the Molly Pitcher Inn, but few bid.

An auction of units at the nearly completed Metropolitan condo project on Red Bank's Wallace Street was halted early Saturday afternoon after just two were sold.

ScorecardOfficials cited the reluctance of prospective buyers to meet the seller's price expectations.

 "I'm a little shocked — I thought the property was adequately priced,"
emcee Jon Chipps told the audience of about 200 that packed a ballroom
at the Molly Pitcher Inn
before declaring the event over.

"Obviously, the prices that have
been brought forth are much, much lower than the developer had
expected."

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GALLERY JOINS DOWNTOWN EXODUS

AsherneimanEmily Asher Neiman works the room at an opening in September.

By TOM CHESEK

Veteran observers of Red Bank’s commercial streetscape know that the
phenomenon known as “the Retail Churn” goes into overdrive each January,
regardless of the general economic forecast.

Now, with the entire nation — and much of the world — in
uncharted economic seas, the phenomenon has returned to our local streets, with the already departed (Fameabilia, DesignFront, Nibus, ME) to the winding
down (New York Trend, Bellini Shoes), as well as those, like Bella
Mystique boutique, that promise to return at a new location.

Add Asher Neiman Gallery to that last category. According to proprietor Emily Asher Neiman, the
gallery will be relocating later this year — as will Emily and her
boyfriend, web design wiz Simon Abramson — to an as-yet-unspecified address in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.

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SMITH CLOSING ‘WESTSIDE’ STASH

Secret stash
Fans gather at the Stash for a 2006 appearance by Kevin Smith.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith is closing the Los Angeles version of the Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash store, according to reports.

As reported on News Askew, the official organ of Smith's film / comic book / toy marketing empire, the shop is falling victim to the "tough economy." [Update: The item, which was available on the News Askew site early Tuesday morning, appears to have been subsequently removed.]

There's no word at this hour on the outlook for the Red Bank original at 35 Broad Street. Blogger Peter Sciretta, who first reported the closing of the LA store on /film, says the Red Bank store is "still going strong" after a decade of operation.

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TRANSIT VILLAGE, STIMULUS FUNDS SOUGHT

Img_624772Mayor Pasquale Menna.

In the face of an historic economic downturn, Red Bank is trimming pay for its planning and zoning board attorneys, looking at a five-percent, across-all-departments budget cut and trying to hold the line in contract talks with its two public employee unions, says Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna.

The borough will also soon unveil measures aimed at making it easier for small businesses to set up shop in town by eliminating red tape, he says.

But the local government will need a hand from the state and federal governments if it is to keep pace with necessary road, sewer and other capital projects, Menna told a packed-house audience at Thursday’s annual borough government reorganization.

In particular, he says the borough will be angling for a slice of the Obama administration’s stimulus program.

And a key piece of that would be a “transit village” designation and the construction of a commuter parking garage at the train station, Menna says. He told reporters after the meeting that he had reached out to NJ Transit officials and encouraged them to build a garage at the station, but that the idea so far has been a non-starter.

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FACES AT RED BANK’S REORG

Img_6240Ed Zipprich and Juanita Lewis make their New Year’s Day debuts as elected officials.

Running mates Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich, who drubbed their Republican opponents in the November election, were sworn in as council members at yesterday’s annual reorganization of Red Bank’s governing body.

After nine years in the majority, Democrats now hold all six seats, just as they did for the decade prior to the election of Jennifer Beck in 1999. She’s now the state Senator for the 12th district.

Councilman Art Murphy, who was unable to attend the meeting because of a family commitment, was re-elected council president.

Here are some more pix from the event:

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CONDOS TO GO ON AUCTION BLOCK

MetropolitanThe building, nearing completion, stands on the former site of Dorn’s Photography and several old houses.

The developer of The Metropolitan, a 37-unit condo project on Wallace Street in Red Bank, will auction off 31 of them at deeply slashed opening bids next month.

Just_in

Ad ad in today’s New York Times says starting bids at the event, to be held January 24 at the Molly Pitcher Inn, will be $295,000. As of yesterday, the lowest-priced unit was priced at $601,000, according to the Monmouth-Ocean Multiple Listing Service.

The auction, which is believed to be the first of its kind for a multifamily project in Red Bank since the partially completed homes at the Bluffs on West Front Street were sold nearly two decades ago, is the latest and perhaps more glaring sign of the impact of the realty-based economic slowdown spreading around the globe.

“This is a distress-marketing type of tactic,” said one area broker who asked not to be identified.

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HOVNANIAN POSTS NINTH LOSING QUARTER

HovHOV HQ on West Front Street, Red Bank.

A near stoppage in mortgage lending drove Hovnanian Enterprises to its ninth consecutive quarterly loss in the period ending October 31, the Red Bank-based homebuilder reported yesterday.

According to Bloomberg, the loss was more than three times the deficit that analysts had expected.

For Hovnanian and its shareholders, the upside was that the latest loss, at $450.5 million, or $5.79 a share, was smaller than the $466.6 million, or $7.42 a share, deficit of the comparable year-prior period.

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