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Pocket park with beer garden proposed for center of downtown Metuchen

METUCHEN – A pocket park in the center of downtown Metuchen is on its way.

Mayor Jonathan Busch announced the concept of the pocket park, which will be designed with the demographic of the borough in mind, during his mayoral address to the borough at the council’s re-organization meeting on Jan. 1.

“The park will transform one of Main Street’s underutilized spaces into a versatile downtown refuge and local gathering place for friends and families and even a quiet place for reflection,” he said. “Here [people] can meet up for a downtown walk, hold an outdoor meeting, grab lunch with a co-worker, eat your ice cream and have a beer.”

Busch said the concept of the pocket park was made possible through extensive negotiations with Manasquan Bank, which is moving to the corner of Main and New streets. It is the site of the former Metuchen Savings Bank.

With the move, Manasquan Bank, which was previously at 429 Main Street, will consolidate all its offices to the new location. The bank has donated the drive-thru on the property to the borough.

Busch said since the property will be owned by the borough, a restauranteur will be eligible to hold what is known as a concessionaire’s liquor license for purposes of opening a beer garden in the park.

“Studies have shown that downtown pocket parks provide increased opportunities for gatherings and relaxation and they make counties safer and more sociable,” the mayor said. “We expect we are 18 months out from making our downtown park a reality.”

During the address, Busch reflected on the “woes and chaos” of 2020. He said despite challenges, borough officials never lost sight of the agenda set at the beginning of 2020.

“In 2020, we were challenged as individuals, as a community, in ways we could never have imagined,” he said, adding the borough took a proactive approach to protect and take care of one another during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As the borough begins 2021, Busch said they have set another ambitious agenda for the year ahead.

He said soil tests are compete on the property adjacent to the Metuchen First Aid Squad, which is being looked at for the next site of the Metuchen Fire Department.

“Just this week we received an engineering report, which will help determine our next steps towards design and construction,” he said.

Construction of the Durham Avenue sewer station, a shared service agreement with Edison Township, will begin in the fall.

Maintenance of dangerous trees will begin with the help of $100,000 secured from the county. The borough will also expand the Human Relations Commission (HRC) from seven to 11 members to further develop HRC’s programming and efforts in the years ahead.

“Representation is an important first step, but certainly not the final step as we strive to do a better job in ensuring that every aspect of our borough looks like the community we serve,” Busch said of expanding the HRC.

During the re-organization meeting, Daniel Hirsch and Tyler Kandel were sworn in to their seats on the council. The two Democrats won the three-year terms that were available on the council in the election on Nov. 3.

Councilwoman Linda Koskoski was nominated to serve another term as council president.

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