RiverCenter Opposes Parking Garage Plans

August 3, 2017
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By John Burton |

RED BANK – Red Bank RiverCenter is opposing the five proposals, in their current forms, for the White Street municipal parking lot redevelopment to address the downtown’s chronic parking shortfall.

In a surprising turn of events, RiverCenter took out a full-page ad in the Aug. 3-10 edition of The Two River Times, to lay out its reasons. (Page 5 of the print edition.) 

RiverCenter, the nonprofit management group, has steadily advocated for a parking garage as vital to the commercial district’s survival as it faces increased competition from other redeveloped areas, downtowns and shopping centers. Previous studies have concluded there is a 1,000-space parking shortfall.

RiverCenter maintains it is a deal breaker: a net gain of at least 500 parking spaces on the lot that currently has 271 metered and permit.
Given the way the developers have calculated the parking component in their plans, “each developer says that their plan provides 500 new parking spaces,” the organization’s open letter to Mayor Pasquale Menna and the Borough Council states in the paid advertisement. However, the organization maintains, “none of them actually do.”

Instead, the letter continues, the developers use a “shared parking” equation with other components of the mixed-use projects and available on-street parking, and “the lower ratios for the number of spaces needed per residential unit that the proposals claim to meet the requirement.”

Given that calculus, the letter concludes “In their present form, therefore, RiverCenter cannot support the proposals.”

James Scavone, RiverCenter’s executive director, was traveling on Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

The borough council had advertised for bids to redevelop the White Street lot for mixed use parking space ideas, and five developers responded.

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The letter stresses RiverCenter is willing to continue the dialogue with elected officials and the developers in hopes of reaching agreement. The letter mentions, but doesn’t name, one of the developers who has expressed interest in buying additional property to expand the project to include more parking. That was an apparent reference to Roger Mumford, a Red Bank-based developer, who has expressed that willingness at public forums.

“If the site is developed but fails to provide a large enough increase in the parking inventory,” RiverCenter warns, “we will have lost our best and finest solution forever.”

Borough Councilman Michael Whelan has been leading the charge among the elected officials on the White Street redevelop- ment. On Wednesday he said, “it’s a surprise to me,” referring to RiverCenter’s position, indicating he hadn’t received any prior notice. In response, he countered, “I think just looking at it as a garage is small-minded.”

Whelan also labeled the organization’s move “politically motived,” and orchestrated by “some of the more powerful members pulling the strings,” on RiverCenter’s executive board.

“The discussions,” on what to do on White Street, he said, “will 100 percent move forward.”

This article was first published in the Aug. 3-10, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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