FREEHOLD – Six separate projects from around Monmouth County received awards last week at the 58th Annual Awards Dinner sponsored by the Monmouth County Planning Board.
The dinner, attended by about 160 people, was held at the Robert B. Meyner Reception Center at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Awards were given to highlight “projects that serve as examples of exemplary planning,” said Robert W. Clark, director of the county’s Planning Board.
Prior to the presentation of awards, Freeholder Deputy Director John P. Curley highlighted some of the work being done by the Planning Board, including regional planning studies, improvements being made to Wreck Pond in Wall and the expansion of summer bus service in four shore towns. He also thanked the citizen members of the Planning Board for their dedication and service to the county.
“I am pleased to showcase some highlights of the past year’s accomplishments,” Curley said.
“In addition to acknowledging some very important projects in our county, the Planning Board is involved in a number of comprehensive regional planning guides and has reinvigorated the county’s recycling program. This year it was the Board’s pleasure to distribute more than $700,000 to our municipalities for improvements they made to local recycling centers and for the purchase of recycling containers for residents, downtowns, parks and other public places.”
This year, one Merit Award was presented:
- The renovation of the County Basie Theatre in Red Bank received a 2011 Planning Merit Award. The Count Basie Theatre has been in continuous use since opening its doors in November 1926 and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Since its acquisition by the Monmouth County Arts Council in 1973, the theatre has operated as a nonprofit arts facility. Due to the age of the structure, the theatre’s physical plant required major repair, restoration and renovation; the work is scheduled to take place in nine planned phases. Phases 1 through 4 are complete and included the replacement of the theatre’s seats and restoration of the balcony to its original configuration, replacement of the roof, restoration of the interior auditorium and restoration of the building exterior, façade and streetscape. Full completion is expected by 2020. The project was selected for a Merit Award because it is consistent with numerous goals, objectives and policies of the Monmouth County Growth Management Guide, such as the preservation of buildings that have historical or architectural significance, and support for efforts to preserve, enhance and expand Monmouth County’s cultural resources and facilities.
“The Count Basie Theatre is the jewel in Red Bank, and you have done a wonderful job restoring it and making sure the arts has a place in the borough,” said Curley, in presenting the Merit Award to Numa Saisselin, CEO of the County Basie Theatre Inc.
Five Honorable Mention Awards also were presented:
- Schoolhouse Square is a 58-unit townhouse development in Neptune Township’s Midtown neighborhood. The first 24 units were completed in March 2011 with the remaining phases to be completed by 2013. All units are priced to be affordable to families earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. Twenty units will have income restrictions and 38 will be affordably priced, without income restrictions. The Schoolhouse Square project meets the smart growth goals established by the state, as Jersey Shore University Medical Center, two regional rail stations, several major commercial corridors and the oceanfront are located less than one mile from the development. Homes were designed for compatibility with local architecture and include elements emulating those found in the 19th century summer homes built along the New Jersey shore. Adjacent neighborhoods were connected to this new development through the creation of a boulevard at the end of an east-west corridor. Each home is NJ Energy-Star certified, and uses high-quality modular construction.
Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone presented the award to Neptune Deputy Mayor Randy Bishop and Graciela Cavicchia, vice president of TRF Development Partners and project manager for the Schoolhouse Square housing development. “Schoolhouse Square is a key to revitalizing this economically challenged area by helping to strengthen existing real estate values,” Arnone said.
- The Swimming River Reservoir serves as a major source of drinking water for more than 300,000 Monmouth County residents. Numerous water quality impairments have been documented in the Swimming River Reservoir watershed, including phosphorous, total suspended solids, arsenic, pH, and temperature. The Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College, which includes the campus of High Technology High School, is located on the northern bank of the Swimming River Reservoir. Runoff from the main 220-acre campus, including several large parking lots, drains into the reservoir. In October 2008, the Monmouth County Planning Board’s Environmental Council convened a group of stakeholders representing government agencies, engineering, landscape design and construction firms to develop a plan for reducing non-point source pollution that impacts the reservoir. The final plan proposed a system of functional rain gardens, to be completed in phases, which would filter parking lot storm water. One rain garden location is near High Technology High School where two kidney bean shaped gardens totaling approximately 1,000 square feet in area were constructed to collect the rainfall runoff from the upper and lower parking lots of the school. The rain gardens, completed in June 2011, are able to capture the first 25% of runoff from storm events that contain heavy downpours, allowing the excess to overflow into the grass area surrounding the gardens.
Freeholder Lillian G. Burry presented the award to Michael Fedosh of the Monmouth County Environmental Council. “Rain gardens are such a lovely way to protect the environment,” Burry said. “In this case, the garden prevents the run-off contaminants from entering the nearby Swimming River Reservoir.”
- The Neptune Township Environmental/Shade Tree Commission installed the first rain garden (of two planned) at the Jumping Brook Road little league fields on September 13, 2010. According to the township, the project resulted in an educational, self-sustaining planted area with minimal maintenance required. The rain garden installation reduces runoff from the new baseball fields, and filters storm water runoff and pollutants that would normally enter the drainage system in accordance with Monmouth County’s Best Management Practices. Grading in the area allows water to flow downhill away from the baseball fields, keeping the garden moist and allowing the plants to thrive. The rain garden plan and construction involved a concentrated effort by multiple volunteer agencies, including Neptune Township’s Environmental Commission, Public Works Department and Engineering Department, the Garden Club of Jumping Brook and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service. A second planned garden will be planted adjacent to this garden.
Burry presented the award to Deputy Mayor Randy Bishop and Richard Ambrioso, chairman of the Neptune Township Environmental Council. “The rain garden reduces runoff from the new fields and filters storm water runoff and pollutants that would normally enter the drainage system,” she said. “This is a wonderful way to serve the environment while providing a habitat for plants.”
- In addition to revitalization, Operation West Side aims to increase the percentage of owner-occupied housing in the community as a neighborhood stabilization strategy and foster greater involvement in both civic and neighborhood matters. Located in the southwestern quadrant of Asbury Park, within the Strategic Target Area Rebuilding Spirit (STARS) Redevelopment Area, “Operation Westside” involves the construction of multiple affordable residential units on previously vacant, city-owned land. This redevelopment initiative was made possible through a collaborative effort between the city and three community-based, non-profit affordable housing developers: Interfaith Neighbors, Affordable Housing Alliance, and Coastal Habitat for Humanity. This collaborative effort was one of only 35 initiatives state-wide to be awarded a grant through the Department of Community Affairs Neighborhood Stabilization Program, bringing with it $2.5 million in federal stimulus money to invest in the community. The project is being constructed in phases, with all units to be completed by the end of 2012. To date, seven units are complete with an additional six units expected to be completed by the end of 2011. These homes will be sold to low- and moderate-income families making up to 80 percent of the area’s median income. The lots had been vacant for many years prior to this initiative, but the new development is compatible with the existing neighborhood fabric.
Curley presented the award to Asbury Park City Planner Donald Sammet. “The goal of this project was to revitalize a downtrodden neighborhood through the development of new, high quality affordable homes,” Curley said. “These lots had been vacant for many years.”
- The Cedar Crossing Affordable Housing development project was developed by the Red Bank Affordable Housing Corporation (RBAHC), which was established in 2007 to provide affordable housing opportunities for low and moderate-income families. Located at the end of Cedar Street, the Cedar Crossing development consists of 36 new construction units located within eight separate buildings. All units will be owner-occupied by income eligible households as defined by the Fair Housing Act and New Jersey Department of Community Affairs regulations. Phase 1 of the Cedar Crossing townhouse development consists of 20 units: eighteen 3-bedroom units and two 2-bedroom units. Phase 2 will include 16 modular two-bedroom units. Each unit will be energy efficient, providing residents with lower operating
costs and a higher real estate market value. The Cedar Crossing development is expected to preserve the surrounding neighborhoods and motivate home ownership. The units will be sold with deed restrictions limiting excessive price increases. Applicants will be selected through a lottery system, with priority given to residents of and workers in Monmouth, Ocean, and Mercer counties.
Arnone presented the award to Marlene Nelson, trustee of the Red Bank Housing Corporation. “The Cedar Crossing development will preserve the surrounding neighborhoods and motivate home ownership by encouraging family pride and self-esteem,” Arnone said.