Red Bank is a vibrant and growing community that is fast becoming the "center for the county," Mayor Pat Menna said Tuesday.
The mayor touched on the progress the borough enjoyed in 2012 as the governing body welcomed 2013 with its annual reorganization meeting at Borough Hall. Menna, a Democrat, touted the downtown businesses, parking and cultural initiatives, the borough's finances and more as he looked to Red Bank's future of "cultural tourism."
While the downtown still features vacant storefronts, much progress was made in 2012, the mayor said. The borough started the year with a 16 percent commercial vacancy rate and ended it with a 5 percent vacancy rate, Menna said.
"We are fortunate.. that our commercial base still accounts for about 40 percent of our tax base," the mayor said. "And it is growing, it's not shrinking."
Businesses and residents alike benefited from the introduction of digital parking meters in 2012 as well as valet parking on Broad Street and the west side. The mayor also was proud that the traffic enhancements on Front Street are complete and looks forward to similar improvements near the Galleria.
"Red Bank is thriving," Menna said. "People want to come into Red Bank."
Private businesses are investing in the borough, he said. Morgan Stanley doubled its residential workforce while Seals Eastern, a Pearl Street rubber seal facility, increased its workforce by 15 percent in 2012.
But the borough also is investing in its residents, the mayor said. The Monmouth Street streetscape project is almost complete, and housing options have been expanded. Menna touted the construction of single-family homes on Bridge Avenue, the Cedar Crossing affordable housing town-home development and the coming housing in the train station area.
"Everyone says the housing market is dying but in Red Bank it's picking up," Menna said.
The borough also has a fighting spirit and won't shrink from a challenge to what the governing body and administration feels is the character of Red Bank.
The municipality sued and ultimately lost a fight with New Jersey Natural Gas over the utility's installation of above-ground gas regulators downtown. "We did our best," Menna said, but the courts ruled NJNG can "vandalize the downtown any time they want."
Red Bank is taking action against the Two River Water Reclamation Authority over rates and succeeded with legal action in preventing 7-Eleven from converting the Welsh Farms on Front Street to a 24/7 operation in the shadow of a residential neighborhood.
"We were not going to step aside for a multi-national corporation to dictate what Red Bank has to do," Menna said.
In 2013, Red Bank must embrace continued progress and change, he said.
"Change clearly puts us on the path we've always been, and that is to be a center... for the county and the state.
"Our focus and our future is still in my opinion what I call the cultural tourism end," Menna said. "It's important that we continue on this path.
"Our vision to continue our competitiveness remains and remains strong."
For more reorganization coverage, see:
- Returning Councilmen Vow to 'Continue the Progress' in Red Bank
- Red Bank Welcomes 2013 Fire Chief