Red Bank and Redevelopment

The Galleria Red Bank - today, a quaint collection of offices, restaurants, and boutiques located in the heart of, what some refer to as, New Jersey’s “Greenwich Village” - was built over a ten-year period, early in the Twentieth Century.

Between the years of 1907 and 1917, The Galleria - originally known as the Eisner Building - was constructed with an endgame in mind that is not similar to what The Galleria is known to be today. The Galleria of today is a redeveloped Red Bank centerpiece...located right where Bridge Avenue meets West Front Street. No, that original early Twentieth-century endgame for The Galleria did not involve chic restaurants. No, that original early Twentieth-century endgame for The Galleria did not involve enticingly charming retail outlets. Rather, that original early Twentieth-century endgame was predicated on the idea of The Galleria functioning as…a textile factory.

During both World Wars, The Galleria was a township stalwart that did not espouse a trendy retail "DNA". Rather, The Galleria of long-ago-Red Bank once possessed an industrial "DNA", serving as a vital supply chain hub for World War I and World War II American military equipment. Flight suits, military uniforms, and gas masks. Those were the wartime supplies that once made up the consortium of items produced for American soldiers in Red Bank at The Galleria early in the Twentieth Century.

In New Jersey, a Redevelopment Area is correlated to the topic of, What to do with blight? More specifically, Redevelopment Areas relate to blighted areas. Areas where, once that blight has been redeveloped, revitalization of the community as a whole takes place.

In a designated Redevelopment Area, a municipality's goals could be focused on transitioning now non-performing residential, commercial, and industrial properties to vibrant community assets. The pursuit of which takes on a community-centric theme.

Renovations. Repurposing properties. And reconstruction too. Each of these is a goal pursuant to redeveloping non-performing properties in designated Redevelopment Areas.

Steps taken by a municipality in their progression towards revitalization in Redevelopment Areas - progression, coupled with a redevelopment plan emanating from city hall - often starts off with the city council passing a resolution. Following a resolution, the planning board then might construct a Redevelopment map. With a Redevelopment map formulated - and upon notification to the public of a scheduled hearing - the planning board could then potentially adopt a Redevelopment resolution. The adopted Redevelopment resolution could recommend the establishment of a Redevelopment Area within the municipality.

There is quite a bit more technical minutiae to this process, needless to say. Yet, in summarily-simplified terms, this is how we can thus arrive at the designation of a Redevelopment Area within a municipality.

On July 23, 2019, resulting from a unanimous vote undertaken by Red Bank Commissioners, the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency was created. In Red Bank, the Redevelopment Agency prioritizes development and redevelopment efforts that enhance the Red Bank community, as well as the lives of those who reside in Red Bank. It’s a well-thought-out, community-centric, redevelopment and revitalization approach.

Today, there are eight retail outlets in the once-a-textile-hub Galleria. Today, there are four restaurants located in the once-a-textile-hub Galleria. Buffalo wings, pizza, Thai food, and Mexican food - are available today at The Galleria, thanks to planned redevelopment efforts undertaken by Red Bank.

Tracing back thirty years ago, to the origin of the transformation of what is now a collection of fine amenities at The Galleria, in the early 1990’s, circumstances at The Galleria were quite different. In the early 1990’s, The Galleria had not yet been redeveloped.

Utilizing “tools” made available to New Jersey municipalities through development and redevelopment “road maps” established in Trenton, “Trenton redevelopment road maps” can serve as “redevelopment toolkits”. Red Bank used these “tools” to designate an entity in the early 1990s to manage redevelopment efforts for The Galleria within a Red Bank special improvement district.

A special improvement district is a Business Improvement District. It’s an area within a municipality where businesses pay an additional tax which goes towards funding redevelopment projects undertaken in the designated district. In Red Bank, as per redevelopment, today's “fruits of labor” that one finds at The Galleria trace their origin to Red Bank's use of redevelopment “tools”, made available to municipalities such as Red Bank, through Trenton.

There are five offices in the once-a-textile-hub Galleria. That early twentieth-century factory at The Galleria, long ago producing American military uniforms, once "majored" in textiles. Today, that old factory now "majors" in the provision of office space, in restaurants, and in retail. This is the result of redevelopment.

Pursuant to redevelopment, New Jersey municipalities are required to reexamine their master plan at least once every ten years. Red Bank is able to be progressively proactive in this manner, through their establishment of the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency.

Two noted objectives set forth by the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency are, 1) “Complete an inventory of Borough-owned properties, an assessment of their zoning status, and perform a highest and best use analysis”, and, 2) “Support the preservation of single-family, owner-occupied housing”. Priorities in Red Bank include continuing to focus on the process of transitioning non-performing properties that are now owned by the municipality so they can be repurposed, as well as enhancing the availability of quality single-family homes.

So let’s do a quick, “OK, this is how we do it here…and, OK, this is how they do it there…”

In Kansas City, my close friend and partner, Ted Anderson, served as the Executive Director for the Land Bank of Kansas City, Missouri. While Kansas City, Missouri utilized their Land Bank to transition then non-performing city-owned properties in KC to developers and to rehabbers, Red Bank does not, at the present time, utilize a comparable “land bank” to transition properties owned by Red Bank to developers. Land banks are rather new in the State of New Jersey. Governor Murphy signed the New Jersey Lank Bank Law into effect on July 11, 2019...only three years ago. By contrast, in Kansas City, the Kansas City Land Bank went into effect seven years prior to the signing of the New Jersey Land Bank Law - in 2012.

For New Jersey municipalities that do not have a land bank, procedures to transition properties owned by the municipality to developers, while remaining aligned with municipality redevelopment plans, can be effectuated through the issuance of a Request For Proposals ("RFP") or the issuance of a Request For Qualifications ("RFQ") .

What is interesting (with some added complexity) about township Redevelopment procedures in New Jersey (which includes Red Bank), as compared to Kansas City and the Kansas City Land Bank, is that in New Jersey, once a planning board designates a Redevelopment Area within a municipality, the municipality is required to forward their local resolution to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”). At this time, if the designated Redevelopment Area is not located in an area where development/redevelopment is sought after pursuant to objectives set forth in Trenton, the Redevelopment Area designation would then be predicated upon the issuance of a final approval, by the DCA.

Beginning each year on Mother’s Day, then continuing on through November, the Farmers Market in Red Bank at The Galleria owes its weekly collection of vegetables to local whose locally grown produce is enjoyed by swaths of market-goers every Sunday in-season at The Galleria in Red Bank. This local community benefit has been made possible by Red Bank redevelopment efforts.

The 100,000-square-foot Galleria, today a beautifully rustic multi-purpose building, is situated on nearly three acres of redeveloped land in the heart of Red Bank. Today, The Galleria serves as a notably visible representation of what redevelopment really looks like when community-centric revitalization efforts are enacted.

“Decisions of the agency will be made transparently and with input from the community” - exactly as worded, this is a stated priority of The Redevelopment Agency of the Borough of Red Bank. With an eye on what is in store in the future for Red Bank, it's a good idea for those who live, who work, and who love Red Bank to participate in redevelopment discussions in a manner that is aligned with the stated objectives set forth by the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency. I.e.: "...with input from the community".

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