New Basie Expansion Will Require More Parking

first_imgBy John BurtonRED BANK – With plans to greatly expand the Count Basie Theatre, making way for bigger productions and larger drawing shows, there will be a need for more parking and officials are giving that consideration.Following Monday’s announcement at the Count Basie Theatre concerning its planned upward of $20 million proposed expansion, Mayor Pasquale Menna said, “We also have to have parking,” to accommodate those additional visitors in the coming years, but “We’re challenged in what we can do.”Menna explained borough officials are planning on conducting environmental testing of the White Street municipal lot. That would be the first step, he said, before eventually moving for ward with the long discussed construction of a parking garage on the site.“It’s expensive to test,” Menna offered, to determine the condition of the White Street property. And given that, Red Bank RiverCenter has agreed to shoulder some of the cost.James Scavone, executive director of RiverCenter, said his organization has agreed to cover half the price.The borough attorney is in the process of drafting the agreement “but we don’t know anything yet,” as to the details or cost, Scavone said.Red Bank RiverCenter is the management and advocacy organization for the borough’s business special improvement district.In addition to the testing, borough officials will seek in the near future requests for proposals for some combination of a public/private partnership, Menna said.It is the mayor’s hope that a private entity would look to construct a mixed-use facility, maybe something containing retail or residential units in addition to a multi-tiered parking deck.In the past Menna had said he would support such a project but only one that “made sense for the taxpayers.”White Street would be the optimum spot for such a facility, officials have said previously, given it is borough-owned and sits in the center of the downtown business district.
“I definitely think it can be a very positive sign, a step in the right direction, for sure,” the overtures the mayor is making for a parking remedy, Scavone offered.But getting the appropriate proposal and completing the testing will take time. “Putting the pieces of the puzzle is a time consuming effort,” Menna said.Debate over whether to construct a public parking garage to address a chronic parking space shortfall has a long history in the borough, with traditionally the business community continuing to support it, believing it would make the downtown business district more accessible and competitive; but residents in the past have expressed vocal objections to it, at least when it involved officials spending taxpayer money to construct it. That was the case in 2001 when homeowners’ and voters’ anger over a proposed $11.5 million bond ordinance eventually led to the borough council withdrawing the plan – after then-councilman Menna said he intended to vote against it.last_img

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