Long Branch's pier/ferry project is inching along, and may still be years away from being built, but the council took a neccesary step for its construction during Tuesday night's council meeting.
The Long Branch Council settled on a final design and opted for the "shaped" pier, which is a curved "L" shape. This also scheme forms an extension of Laird Street, with a stairway at the pier's end which will provide beach access, according to the Pier Charette Report.
The city is looking to rebuild its amusement pier that burned down in 1987, and was deciding between three separate designs for the project.
Consultants, Peter Liebowitz and Keith Rowan, of New York-based environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm AKRF, Inc., presented the council with their findings, during a meeting in November, of an economic study on the proposed pier’s potential commercial success and recommended the “shaped” scheme as having the most money-making potential of the three possible designs.
The pier would be located in Pier Village would have restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, amusements, and a ferry service to Manhattan, officials have said. The proposed pier and ferry platform would cost the city at least $100 million, but officials have said the pier would be a booming commercial center that ultimately pays for itself.
The council also introduced a bond ordinance that will provide $1 million for design and engineering expenses for the project, and is expected to approve the ordinance at its next meeting on Dec. 27.
An additional $1 million bond ordinance was adopted by the council in 2009, which was also used for design and engineering costs.
Long Branch Business Administrator Howard Woolley said the city has the funding in place to do the planning and design work for the project, thanks to grants secured from the Department of Transportation through Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6).
"Pallone was successful in getting all the money that we have," Woolley has said. "It was a total of $3.5 million initially and we recently got another $300,000."
The bond ordinance introduced on Tuesday is neccesary, because the council must match the $1.7 million the city received in federal aid, Long Branch Chief Financial Officer Ron Mehlhorn said. Mehlhorn added that the federal aid money can only be used for engineering and design for the project.
Councilman John Pallone asked Woolley if there would be any other costs for the pier after the bond ordinance is adopted. Woolley said he did not believe there would be and said the project would be "shovel ready," meaning that all the permitting, designing and engineering work would be done.
"This takes us to the end of the design package," Woolley said. "We should be in good shape to move forward."
Woolley said the funding for the project is still "unknown" at this time, and that the city has not yet created a concrete plan for how it will finance it.
"We're optimistic something will happen, and we know the economy is cyclical and that it’s in a long downturn now," Woolley has said. "But it’s going to come back up and when it does we think there will be an interest."
The city has applied for several state and federal grants, but has not yet had much luck, often losing out to larger cities and organizations like New York and NJ Transit, Woolley has said.