Red Bank RiverCenter Asks Borough to Extend Broadwalk
Jul 21, 2023
By Sunayana Prabhu
RED BANK – By popular demand, Red Bank RiverCenter, the borough’s promotional agency, has requested borough officials bring Broadwalk back from May 5 through Oct. 3.
At the council meeting March 8, Bob Zuckerman, executive director of RiverCenter presented a PowerPoint for borough officials, asking them to renew Broadwalk this year, with some improvements.
Started as a response to support area restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and continued in 2021, Broadwalk closes Broad Street from White to Front streets to vehicular traffic, transforming the area into a pedestrian plaza with outdoor dining, music and recreational activities for adults and children through the summer.
Broadwalk had a shortened run in 2022 due to road construction; it ran from late July through Oct. 2.
During his presentation Zuckerman explained why the council should authorize opening up Broadwalk from May 5 through Oct. 3.
“We don’t have a beach here,” he said, noting Red Bank needs “placemaking activities in the warmer months” to compete with nearby beach town tourism hotspots like Asbury Park, Long Branch and Sea Bright. Broadwalk provides “a real destination point for downtown Red Bank,” he said.
The borough’s streetscape beautification project last year, including the installation of retractable steel bollards to close the street to traffic, means Broadwalk has more support this year from downtown businesses and an “overwhelming majority of people,” Zuckerman said.
Broadwalk is a “beautiful addition to our downtown” that boosts the image of the town, he said. Thrillist, a popular travel magazine, has featured Red Bank as one of the Top 8 small towns to visit in New Jersey with a picture of the Broadwalk.
Zuckerman suggested solutions to some major and minor issues for a successful Broadwalk this year:
• Increasing visitor traffic during weekdays by adding a community tent in front of the now closed Coco Pari clothing store for outdoor dining with bistro chairs which will allow seating for those getting takeout or for parties who want to get food from multiple establishments;• Providing QR codes on tables in the community tent to connect customers to restaurants and food delivery services;• Adding a range of programming from yoga and art classes to outdoor vendor markets to kids’ activities during the day, including partnerships with nonprofits and the borough’s recreation department;• Covering the existing bollards with “bollard covers” for higher visibility at lane closures instead of “ugly orange barrels”;• Creating new signage for loading and unloading zones and stricter enforcement with fines. The RiverCenter will communicate with restaurants to ensure delivery vendors abide by the loading zones;• Hiring of additional maintenance staff by RiverCenter to clean the Broadwalk area twice a day.
Additionally, Zuckerman urged the council to keep 2022 fee rates for all restaurants in the Broadwalk and incentivize restaurants outside Broadwalk to create their own “streateries” (street eateries) with tables and chairs outside by lowering fees to the 2021 rates to increase participation. According to Zuckerman, restaurants outside Broadwalk didn’t participate last year because costs were prohibitive. He said one restaurant owner had prepared to set up her tables and chairs last year but it was going to cost her $6,000. “Her response to me today was, ‘I don’t want to work for nothing,’” Zuckerman said.
Council members put off greenlighting the plan at the meeting, citing several concerns regarding parking allowances for delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash; areas covered by the RiverCenter for clean-ups; and managing traffic during peak hurricane season through September, among others.
“The earlier that we know we can move forward, the more programming we can do,” Zuckerman said, urging the council to authorize the plan for Broadwalk.
Mayor Billy Portman agreed to “put together a working group,” hoping to make a final decision at the next scheduled council meeting March 22.
In other business, the council decided to table the introduction of an ordinance concerning a 3% transient accommodation occupancy tax on short-term rentals like those through Airbnb. Council president Michael Ballard, who led the recent adoption of a contentious short-term rental law, first introduced and then tabled the 3% transient tax ordinance at a special meeting March 3 during which the council overturned Portman’s veto of the new ordinance.
The purpose of the new ordinance, according to borough documents, is to impose a transient accommodation occupancy tax in Red Bank for rentals of single rooms, multiple rooms or other sleeping or living spaces.
The article originally appeared in the March 16 – 22, 2023 print edition of The Two River Times.Elizabeth WulfhorstBy Sunayana Prabhu