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RED BANK RENEWS PUSH FOR LATE CLOSINGS

rb-late-nightBars and restaurants are doing their job keeping doors open late, some say, but more merchants must stay open to attract more visitors. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As Red Bank continues to claw its way out of an economic hole it hasn’t seen since the we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-it Dead Bank days, Mayor Pasquale Menna tends to periodically jab downtown’s retailers with a reminder that it’s going to take work to bring Red Bank back as a top destination in the region and beyond.

Lately, though, he’s taken a firmer approach.

At a council meeting last month, when two requests for car shows on Broad Street appeared on the agenda, he paused from the typical rubber-stamping of such requests.

“This is a chance to tickle, pinch, smack our retailers to stay open on Sunday,” Menna said, and then pointed to Red Bank RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams, who was seated in the audience. “Get the word out. Tell them to stay open on Sunday. I might start smacking instead of pinching.”

It was another lash at a limp horse he’s been flogging since before Red Bank’s business dipped with the national economy. For years, Menna has been urging merchants to move away from the nine-to-five mindset and keep the lights on after dark and on Sunday, when too many stores, he says, are closed.

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RESIDENTS READY TO FIRE BACK AT AVAYA

four-ponds1Four Ponds architect Ned Gaunt gave the first look at color drawings of the proposed homes at the former Avaya property in Lincroft. Below, an opponent of the plan in a t-shirt worn by many in the audience. (Photos by Stacie Fanellii. Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

four-ponds-opponentAs a development company’s team of professionals continued to lobby for approval by Middletown’s planning board of a major residential community in Lincroft, opponents of the plan anxiously waited their turn Wednesday night.

That time is still weeks away, as testimony on the proposed redevelopment of the former Avaya property continued with more traffic study findings and the introduction of the 342-unit housing plan’s schematics that were met with familiar boos in a crowded meeting room.

Waiting patiently for their turn on the floor, three residents who’ve hired an attorney to counter the studies and findings by representatives of Four Ponds Associates sat listening to details of the unfolding plan to convert the 68-acre property from commercial to residential use.

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IT’S ALL A MATTER OF TASTE IN CUPCAKE CITY

Photos by Stacie Fanelli. To enlarge the slideshow, click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Late in 2009 and into 2010, a sign in a window on West Front Street indicated a new specialty shop, Cake Red Bank, would be moving in soon, teasing the palates of passersby.

It never came.

But then, amid a series of pounding snowstorms that buried the area, a couple from Manhattan brought baked batter to the table in a nook on East Front called Sugarush, offering an array of cupcakes and confectionaries. It appeared  that Chris Paseka and Jesse Bello-Paseka had firmly staked their frosting knives in the ground.

Little did they know that two prospective cupcake merchants were greasing mini foils in preparation for their own cupcake outlets within blocks of Sugarush. Within a matter months, Red Bank, a town of 1.7 square miles, has become home to three cupcake shops — the Pasekas’ Sugarush, Cupcake Magician and Mr. Cupcakes — setting the stage for a turf war.

But several months in, the rivalry has shaped up as plain vanilla, with owners playing nice and customers, apparently welcome to options, having largely formed their own opinions and allegiances, showing that even in a small market, it’s possible to find a niche within a niche.

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RED BANK VANDALS CAUGHT ON VIDEO

picture1Still images of two vandals were release by Red Bank police Friday. (Image courtesy of Red Bank police; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

graffitiRecognize either of these guys marking up the wall behind A.H. Fisher Diamonds in Red Bank? Or perhaps their handiwork, at right?

If so, and grafitti rankles you, dial up the cops.

The department is on the lookout for two young men they say vandalized the jewelry shop and nearby salon Chelsea Morning early Thursday, and may have been involved in another graffiti act.

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STUDY: AVAYA TRAFFIC WON’T BE THAT BAD

avaya-t-shirtFour Ponds development opponents were well-represented at Wednesday’s planning board meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Even in a worst-case scenario, traffic in and out of the proposed Four Ponds development in Lincroft won’t have as big an impact on the area as neighbors fear, according to a traffic study presented to the Middletown Planning Board Wednesday night.

The 342-unit development, if approved, would be better— traffic-wise — for the town than a return to professional use of the 68-acre property on Middletown-Lincroft Road, said traffic consultant John Rea, of McDonough & Rea Associates in Manasquan. The site is the former home of business technology giant Avaya, where a vacant 352,000-square-foot building once housed a bustling tech industry until it was closed a few years ago.

“It has been used in the past, and it has generated higher traffic volumes than what is proposed today,” he said.

Members of the board, though, pushed back against a number of statistics Rea offered, saying traffic in that section of town can slow to a crawl and prompts travelers to seek shortcuts.

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FIXX NEEDS A FIX TO KEEP LIQUOR LICENSE

fixxFixx must go to the state if it wants to keep serving booze, Red Bank officials have decided. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just like its predecessor, Fixx on West Front Street is in hot water with the borough government.

The council, citing “problems” and “public safety” issues, tabled a rubber-stamp resolution Wednesday night to renew the night club’s liquor license, which expires at the end of the month.

If Fixx wants to keep serving, it has to get a temporary license from the state Alcohol Beverage Control division, Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

Beyond that, the club, which more often than not draws a college-age crowd for live music and drinks in plastic Silo cups, must prove to the borough that it will operate at a more acceptable level.

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COUNCIL DIGS IN AGAINST PROPOSED GARDEN

rbpl-garden-siteAdvocates are pushing the council to allow a community garden on borough-owned property to the right of the library, above. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The green thumbs had their rakes and hoes out in force Wednesday night.

An already lengthy Red Bank council meeting carried on about 45 minutes more as elected officials and proponents of a community garden clashed on the proposed location for the first of what the group hopes will to be up to four community-tended gardens throughout town.

Advocates want the start-up site at borough-owned property adjoining the public library site. But officials say it’s the last available piece of public land on the Navesink River, and don’t want to exclude people by turning it into an area of specific interest.

And so a back-and-forth that started in March continued Wednesday, with still no place to plant a seed decided upon.

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CHOPSTICKS, WATER PIPES, SCISSORS & MORE

phole-2Vietnamese eatery Pho Le opened on Broad Street last week. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rcsm2_010508Middle Broad Street in Red Bank appears to be pulling itself from a retail malaise. It wasn’t all that long ago that for every business in the area, one or two storefronts were empty.

More recently, though, there’s been an infusion of new businesses — and diversity — on the blocks between Monmouth Street and Harding Road, with the addition of two new pizzerias, a gourmet Chinese sit-down, a beauty boutique and two upscale consignment shops.

The latest to join the mix is one-of-a-kind. At 90 Broad, Vietnamese restaurant Pho Le set out the chopsticks and noodle bowls late last month.

More info on the recent churning below.

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ANOTHER PITCHED POLE

west-front-leanerAnother leaning pole in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

We’ve got another leaner.

This angled utility pole was spotted on West Front Street, just outside Trinity Church.

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THE ART WALK: BACK TO FRONT

asherneimandesignfrontA scene from last December’s temporary gallery installation on Front Street, with Emily Asher Neiman visible behind the counter.

She didn’t make her pronouncement with the pomp of General Douglas MacArthur or the portent of the Terminator — but when Emily Asher Neiman said she’d be back, well, she was a woman of her word.

After having closed her eponymous art gallery on Monmouth Street late in 2008, Asher Neiman returned to Red Bank in December of last year for a gifting-season Home for the Holidays event that set up temporary shop inside the glass-facaded former home of DesignFront at 21 East Front Street — a bit of planned obsolescence that nonetheless brought some welcome light and life to what had once been one of the borough’s most stylish storefronts.

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A ‘WHITE ELEPHANT’ NO MORE

rb-corporate-plazaRed Bank Corporate Plaza, showing off its backside along Wall Street. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Four months ago, when redbankgreen first reported on the impending pizza renaissance in Red Bank, we described the slated location of one of those pie joints, Pazzo’s Coal Fired Oven Restaurant, as a nearly-empty “white elephant.”

Boy, did we get an earful. Suzanne Macnow, who brokers the leases for  Red Bank Corporate Plaza at 141 West Front Street, took issue with the characterization, citing actual occupancy, signed leases and others that were nearing signature.

Whether our terminology was apt then was a matter of disagreement. No more. Today, we’re eating our words as if they were served atop an airy, coal-fired pizza crust.

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