For some time now, the Beachwood Historical Alliance has actively pursued a sweeping downtown revitalization in conjunction with the upcoming Ocean County Rail Trail project and borough centennial. To this end, we have applied – with cooperation and support from borough officials, residents and many business and property owners – to become an affiliate of the Main Street New Jersey program.
Taken directly from their website, the MSNJ program “provides selected communities with technical assistance and training of proven value in revitalizing historic downtowns. The program helps municipalities improve the economy, appearance and image of their central business districts through the organization of local citizens and resources.”
This program holds four tiers of community membership, of which affiliate is third. If chosen, becoming an affiliate would provide us with training, communication support, and inter/intra state-level advocacy to utilize directly and immediately within downtown Beachwood while preparing us to apply for the highest tier designation at their next application period in 2011. This advanced tier would more completely aid in the downtown project through stronger and more inclusive training and support within the promotion, economic restructuring and design aspects of downtown Beachwood.
To better inform why an historical organization or anyone at all should care about our downtown, we encourage you to take a moment and read information from Solutions for America, a “civic problem solving” site. All of the elements of downtown revitalization described therein are dead on to our downtown and its needs and possibilities. Of particular note is their statement that “research shows that a healthy and vibrant downtown boosts the economic health and quality of life in a community. Specifically, it creates jobs, incubates small businesses, reduces sprawl, protects property values, and increases the community’s options for goods and services. A healthy downtown is a symbol of community pride and history.”
The best way to preserve our borough heritage is by breathing in it renewed and perpetual life through projects such as a comprehensive downtown revitalization program. Placing pleasing photographs from the past on a website and encouraging the independent preservation of borough buildings, while enjoyable, is largely passive and only one facet of what we think is possible both through the Beachwood Historical Alliance and the borough at large.
Beachwood itself began as a sort of good-faith gamble that succeeded only due to the initial community pride it fostered. This bond, inherited by subsequent generations, propels us forward through these tough economic times, political battles, social issues and environmental dilemmas yet will dwindle if left unattended. Right now, our downtown properties are suffering from this destructive form of progress and social dwindle, and it can be seen as plain as (for some) their deteriorated exteriors as it can the regular winking in and out of businesses that bloom and fade within months of opening.
Our downtown and general borough businesses need our support, today. Please solicit them often and whenever possible. Right now we are being offered an almost total clean slate to recreate a vibrant downtown through the availability of the Carpetland corner site for purchase as well as the former Disbrow’s Market/Clancy’s Video building and former Clancy’s Video/Clutter storefront for rental (among numerous others up and down the Atlantic City Boulevard/Route 9 corridor). Where many see blight, we see opportunity.
A well thought out destination business in the Carpetland (former Circle Shop and currently for sale), something like a Surf Taco, would do wonders for the downtown social activity and foot traffic. Not only is it virtually the downtown cornerstone, it also has its own parking lot, can support upstairs professional offices (and is primed for a renovation to meet all needs and become doubly self-sustaining for a new owner), is within a five minute drive of Toms River South to accommodate those carloads of students on lunch, is within short walking distance of our public waterfront (meaning any rail trail patrons walking down to use the beach, docks, parks or community center would have to walk right by) and can fantastically utilize the original structural design elements.
The former Clancy’s Pharmacy/Clutter Shop store –
What about a quality sit down Asian restaurant?
A combination active recreation store for skateboarding, biking, surf/body boarding, kayaking, fishing plus their associated clothing lines, etc?
Art Gallery/Antique/Used Book store that holds regular events and utilizes eBay and the general internet for better sustainability?
The former Disbrow’s Market/Clancy’s Video –
What about a music instruction business utilizing the wide windows to attract passerby by allowing them to see the more accomplished (or not yet accomplished) musicians hone their skills?
Or how about reinstalling a market/cafe that also delivers and allows one-click online ordering?
As you can see, tons of potential, open ideas, and a bright future if stewarded by the right individual(s)/group(s) and especially aided by being 1) a solid destination business and 2) a multifaceted operation that uses alternating (and alternate) means for revenue: walk-ins, traditional advertising, word of mouth, social networking, internet site and auction, etc.
I encourage anyone with an interest in forming or restoring the bonds of a community to consider joining and volunteering within our organization or any other borough organization, from the recreation commission to our volunteer fire and first aid companies; the Friends of the Beachwood Library to the soccer club and little league. Or, better still, if you can think of a need you can help fill, consider starting your own proactive organization, whether it be a chamber of commerce, civic society, or merely a group of neighbors that simply walk around picking up or clearing out litter from time to time.
Beachwood Borough will survive to see many other days. The question of how it makes it through the rough spots and challenges lies entirely with you – the resident, the student, the business owner, the passerby.
Beachwood Historical Alliance
The Beachwood Historical Alliance holds monthly meetings on the last Thursday of each month at 7:00pm in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Cable Avenue in the borough. All are welcome to attend. The next meeting is on September 24th.