Borough Council hears downtown presentation

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[COURTESY OF Sea Girt Borough]

SEA GIRT — A proposed plan to revitalize downtown Sea Girt was presented at last week’s borough council meeting.

The plan was presented by John Ward, a planning board member and chair of the Downtown Committee. The creation of the 11-person committee was endorsed by the borough last September. The committee had the plan ready to present since this April, but it had to be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

We believe with community support there can be significant enhancements to our downtown. Some things can happen quickly, others longer term. Whether to this is if the borough strives to maintain its existing zoning that does not permit first-floor residential use. If anything is ever needed to be strengthened to further encourage only retail and restaurants on the first floors, discourage professional services in the center of the district. Peripheral presence is better.”

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The committee received much community input into the report, receiving over 100 suggestions from Sea Girt residents.

The report, which is available on the borough’s website at seagirtboro.com, includes six key findings that the committee believes the borough can do to enhance the downtown among other recommendations. The committee looked at the most popular downtown communities New Jersey including that of the neighboring towns, Manasquan and Spring Lake. They even looked to Bryant Park in New York City and small towns in Europe for ideas.

The first is to create a position of “Downtown Advocate,” a leadership position that can be employed full or part time to promote the borough’s commercial district, such as are found in neighboring boroughs Manasquan and Spring Lake.

The report also suggested Sea Girt add a variety of celebrations to the commercial district throughout the year to attract visitors to town. Some of the new ideas are those that the committee has seen be successful in other towns. The ideas include: Farmers and Makers Markets; car shows; music and art shows; food related events and pop ups [structures that provide space for a vendor for a set period of hours or days]; post-5K race town-wide picnic at the Army Camp as had been done in prior years; outdoor dining and seating opportunities; events that will attract our seasonal residents back pre and post season [such as the tree lighting ceremony]; and additional spaces for the community to congregate downtown.

The report emphasized Washington Boulevard as the focus of the report, which Mr. Ward said he believed should be rezoned possibly to stress retail or restaurant only usage of first floors in the area.

“If anything is ever needed to be strengthened to further encourage only retail and restaurants on the first floors, discourage professional services in the center of the district. Peripheral presence is better,” Mr. Ward said. The report also calls for the addition of “traffic calming concepts” for pedestrians.

“Successful downtowns have multiple open storefronts that increase pedestrian traffic – first floor offices do not,” he said.

The fourth point of the report suggests to move more events to the area around the library and other municipally-owned properties. The fifth suggests that the borough utilize the space provided by the Sea Girt Army Camp, as it has in the past.

The final finding of the report suggests enhanced communication to get the word out and increase attendance of borough-sponsored events.

Further ideas proposed in the report include: More handicap parking slots in the business districts; reevaluating the two hour parking limit downtown; consider ways to attract specialty shops like Vineyard Vines or LuLu Lemon that bordering towns do not already have; increase use of the school gym for family and community focused events like movies and scavenger hunts; and host student-run pop up in conjunction with Manasquan High School’s Business Academy and Brookdales’s incubator program.

This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.

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