Recasting a Parking Lot as Public Space

October 5, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo |

RED BANK –The borough’s effort to improve its much-maligned parking situation will get underway in the spring when ground is broken on an improvement project that will transform the English Plaza lot into a multipurpose location.

During a Sept. 26 meeting of the Borough Council, Red Bank RiverCenter executive director James Scavone brought a rendering of a reconfigured lot before the governing body, which featured four additional parking stalls as well as a pedestrian seating area located in the alleyway that exits onto West Front Street between JJ Delicacies and Jr’s of Red Bank.

The English Plaza parking lot will have multiple new public uses after a renovation. Click on the image to review the report in PDF format. Image courtesy RiverCenter.

The lot’s disintegrating curbs and sidewalks will be replaced and accented by landscaping improvements, new LED lighting installments, public benches, art pieces and murals that will make the site more aesthetically pleasing.

Scavone said an added benefit of this particular design – one of six potential designs – is that a large section of parking stalls situated between Investor’s Bank on White Street and the Front Street Trattoria building could be sectioned off and utilized as event space. It’s a usage the English Plaza lot is not currently suited for, but an aspect of the design that aligns with the desires of stakeholders to transform the lot into a multipurpose setting, according to Scavone.

“Using it as an event space was something that has never been available to us and something that will certainly be useful moving forward as another option to program some smaller events,” said Scavone, who hopes increased foot traffic to the lot will inspire more Broad Street business owners to install backdoor entrances that will allow pedestrians to filter in and out of the English Plaza lot, much like Jack’s Music Shoppe.

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Scavone said improving the safety and traffic circulation of the lot was the primary focus of the $1 million improvement plan, a project he said will be partially financed by a $500,000 interest-free loan from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. RiverCenter will match the award with subsequent grant money and appropriations from its own capital improvement fund.

Another pivotal aspect of the project is the construction of an extensive pedestrian pathway that would provide a route from Riverside Gardens Park through the English Plaza lot and to the borough’s main White Street parking lot, which acts as an entry point to the rest of the downtown business district on Monmouth Street and beyond.

“That was something that really came out of the listening phase of this project,” Scavone said. “It was something we heard a lot from the stakeholders, who thought it was important to create a more accessible route from Riverside Gardens Park to the downtown area.”

The improvements to the White Street lot include the addition of three parking stalls.

The unveiling of these concept plans followed a Sept. 10 meeting at Red Bank Middle School where Scavone helped lead a dialogue with borough residents and business owners, and representatives of the New York City firm Walker Consultants, who have been tasked with completing the first comprehensive study of the borough’s parking inventory in the commercial business district in 26 years.

Scavone said the firm has been made aware of the proposed plan and potential changes to the English Plaza lot and will factor that into their report accordingly.

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This article was first published in the Oct. 4 – Oct. 10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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