Red Bank is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, incorporated in 1908 and located on the Navesink River, the area's original transportation route to the ocean and other ports. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough had a population of 12,206, reflecting an increase of 362 (+3.1%) from the 11,844 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,208 (+11.4%) from the 10,636 counted in the 1990 Census.
Red Bank was originally formed as a town on March 17, 1870, from portions of Shrewsbury Township. On February 14, 1879, Red Bank became Shrewsbury City, a portion of Shrewsbury Township, but this only lasted until May 15, 1879, when Red Bank regained its independence. On March 10, 1908, Red Bank was formed as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature and was set off from Shrewsbury Township.
Occupied by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, in historic times the area of modern-day Red Bank was the territory of the Algonquian-speaking Lenape Native Americans, also called the Delaware by the English. The Lenape lived in the area between the Navesink River and the Shrewsbury River in an area that they called Navarumsunk. The Native Americans traded freely with European settlers who purchased land in the area after arriving from England and Holland in the mid-17th century.
Originally part of "Shrewsbury Towne", Red Bank was named in 1736, when Thomas Morford sold Joseph French "a lot of over three acres on the west side of the highway that goes to the red bank." Red Bank was settled by English colonists beginning in the 17th century and became a center for shipbuilding, with its population growing rapidly after 1809 with the arrival of regularly scheduled passenger ships that plied the route to Manhattan.
By 1844, Red Bank had become a commercial and manufacturing center, focused on textiles, tanning, furs, and other goods for sale in Manhattan. With the dredging of the Navesink River about 1845, Red Bank became a port from which steamboats transported commuters to Manhattan. Red Bank grew in size as a result of this, as well as the construction of a railway in the town by the Raritan and Delaware Bay Railroad in 1860.
During the 20th century, Red Bank was a strong cultural, economic, and political center in Monmouth County, until it was hindered by the economic recession that began in 1987. During this time, Red Bank's economy, based largely on retail commerce, was in decline, due to a real estate scandal. Local pundits and urban planners referred to the town as "Dead Bank".
Beginning in approximately 1991, under the New Jersey Development and Redevelopment Law, the borough authorized the creation of the Red Bank RiverCenter to manage redevelopment in what was designated as a special improvement district. RiverCenter retains authority over the management and redevelopment of a defined central business district, which includes Broad Street from the post office to Marine Park and from Maple Avenue to one block east of Broad Street. A number of urban redevelopment projects have taken place, including improved signage, distinctive and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and lighting, a coherent design plan for Main Street and other major thoroughfares, improved condition of parking lots with landscaping, and similar projects.
The district as originally proposed was larger, to include the commercial areas west of Maple Avenue, including the antique buildings, The Galleria, and Shrewsbury Avenue. However, some property owners in this area were opposed to paying the special assessment. Plans for the larger district advanced but opposition became more rigorous. The proposed district was amended to exclude opponents, and the district that was adopted stops at Maple Avenue.