TAPintoAsbury Park

Your Neighborhood News Online - By Alissa Deleo

A public presentation of the plan’s major recommendations will take place March 30 at 6 p.m. at the Asbury Park Library

ASBURY PARK, NJ — An arts and culture plan may soon become a key component included within the city’s master plan after an update about its development was made by Eric Galipo during a recent city council meeting.

Galipo, who is a professional planner and urban designer representing the city and the Asbury Park Arts Council, asked the council to consider a resolution of referral to the planning board for review and adoption, which they determined will be voted on at the March 22 city council meeting. If the council approves the resolution, it will then come before the planning board in April for review and once again for eventual adoption in May.

At the meeting, Galipo briefly introduced the plan, including recent research, findings and recommendations from an anonymous survey about the status of the arts and potential future developments in the city which began last August.

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A public presentation of the plan’s major recommendations will be made on Thursday, March 30, at 6 p.m. at the Asbury Park Public Library, located at 500 First Ave.

The Asbury Park Arts and Culture Plan is an endeavor undertaken by the city in conjunction with the Asbury Park Arts Council, Monmouth Arts, the Monmouth County Department of Planning and the New Jersey State Council of the Arts.

Galipo’s role is to provide professional arts and cultural planning services through his firm Francis Cauffman Architects (FCA), which is a multidisciplinary planning and design firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York and Orlando.

The firm has completed arts and culture plans for municipalities and institutions, including the St. Louis Garment District Master Plan, The Salt Lake City Arts & Culture Plan, the City of Ocala Arts and Public Places Plan and is currently in the process of developing a public art master plan for the City of Hoboken.

“Arts and culture plans can be powerful tools for cities and communities to foster community cohesion and civic pride, identify gaps and opportunities in the city’s cultural landscape. It’s a way to leverage arts and culture as generators of economic development and employment growth and to enhance the quality of life of residents through community-based arts and recreational activities,” Galipo said.

All funding for the arts and culture plan is being provided by Monmouth Arts and Monmouth County’s COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program for non-profit organizations.

During Galipo’s presentation, he further addressed the question of why an arts and culture plan is necessary for Asbury Park. “The 2017 city master plan defined a vision for the city as a place with a thriving arts community, a year-round economy, expanded community facilities and an outstanding quality of life,” Galipo explained.

“There was also a specific recommendation that the city would complete an arts and culture master plan that would inventory the arts and cultural assets of the city and identify areas most suitable for arts and culture as well as the uses, programs and actions necessary to support arts and culture in the city,” he added.

Throughout the past eight months, its planning process has been guided by a steering committee comprised of representatives from the city council, the planning and zoning boards, the department of planning and redevelopment, the Asbury Park Arts Council, Monmouth County Department of Planning and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

During this period, the steering committee has received regular updates on the research, data gathering and community engagement opportunities of the planning team, Galipo noted, adding that the community has also been consistently involved in the creation of the plan.

He explained that the planning team met with the public to learn further about their individual attitudes on arts and culture as well as what more they believe is needed in the city.

In this pursuit, the arts council received 153 responses to an online survey as of March 8 and conducted more than 20 interviews with representatives of city government and non-profit organizations, the Asbury Park school system and others working in arts and culture throughout the city.

The arts council also conducted five focus groups with local creators and producers of cultural and community activities and hosted an open house at the Blackbird Community Commons in December with more than 80 participants in attendance.

“Overall, we can identify more than 500 individual touch points gained through our participation in multiple community events where individual conversations and actual community members rounded out our understanding of the cultural landscape and the needs of the city and the community,” Galipo said.

During the study, the arts council undertook an inventory of arts and culture assets throughout the city.

“In this study, we were able to identify nearly 180 individual creators and organizations related to arts and culture as well as 80 venues, places and facilities capable of supporting arts and cultural activity and over 60 recurring programs and events that provide a strong sense of Asbury Park as a significant contributor to the regional art and cultural landscape and economy,” Galipo said.

The study examined resources available through community facilities but found that there are few spatial resources that are perceived as accessible or welcoming to the public, he added.

“The precious few community facilities that we do have are working hard to provide services, but this study has found more services and facilities are needed to fully engage the residential community, individual creative pursuits and collective activities,” Galipo said.

The study charted the frequency of all recurring programs taking place throughout the city to understand how cultural activity is distributed throughout the year.

“What we discovered is that the seasonal nature of the city has a significant impact on the level of cultural activity, with most events occurring in the warmer months of the year,” Galipo said.

The study examined the prevalence of free and public events and how this compares to that of paid and private events. Recorded data additionally concluded that while paid and private events generally continue throughout the year, almost all free and public programming offered to the community is limited to the warm season.

“This is highly indicative of a lack of high quality low-cost indoor facilities for hosting community programs in the off-season,” Galipo said.

The research charted the city’s active seasonal formal venues, which are The Stone Pony summer stage and the Fifth Avenue rooftop. The Saint, Asbury Lanes, House of Independents, and The Stone Pony are listed in the study as activity year-round indoor venues.

The study stated that 72% of the city’s indoor venue capacity is inactive, naming Convention Hall, Paramount Theatre and Savoy Theatre on Mattison Avenue, which closed in 1976.

“It cannot be understated the detrimental impact this has on the local economic and employment picture when it comes to arts and culture,” Galipo said.

Outdoor recreation beyond the beachfront, dining and live music need to be leveraged, according to the survey, which notes that historical tourism, learning and making, dance, theater and other performing arts all have significant potential for increasing Asbury Park’s share of the regional creative economy for engaging its residents and visitors creative pursuits.

Galipo added that he hopes to see collaboration and coordination between the city’s private and non-profit sectors, which he believes could help leverage spatial assets, secure funding and connect creators and audiences.

Galipo concluded the presentation by explaining four goals of the arts and culture plan, which are to augment the city’s year-round quality of life, expand the cultural production ecosystem, foster inclusion, community cohesion, well-being and lifelong learning and support tourism, creative enterprises and the cultural economy.

The plan identifies four general strategies that can contribute to meeting the goals. The first is to provide resources, facilities and programs for individual creativity, recreation and lifelong learning, while the second strategy is to align development, land use, funding and policies to support tourism and the homegrown creative economy.

“Asbury Park needs to do more in terms of modernizing its zoning code and looking for ways to include new and encourage other uses within our residential and commercial environments,” Galipo said.

The third strategy is to leverage the brand of Asbury Park as an inclusive city where creativity thrives.

“Our visual brand is inconsistent and could use some harmonization as well as provide an injection of creativity into the way we express our status as a seasonal beach community and a year-round artistic and creative community,” Galipo said.

The fourth strategy is to transform streets, parks and public spaces to support next-level art and cultural place-making, Galipo explained, adding, “We use our city’s streets to a high degree in Asbury Park, but more can be done to make sure that they feel more balanced between the needs of people and the needs of cars.”