HACKENSACK, N.J. — Standup comedian Ryan Huban has a vision for Hackensack: Hordes of people empty out of the new Performing Arts Center after a show and head to nearby Main Street, where local musicians and others are performing in bars and clubs.
The patrons head inside one of them or grab an outdoor seat at an upscale restaurant. Eventually they return to their high-rise condo.
It will take five years, max, to come true, he says.
"I would encourage people to buy low on Hackensack now," said Huban, who started the local comedy collective "Howdy Stranger" and is on the city's 25-member Creative Arts Team and its Cultural Advisory Board.
His job is to make Hackensack a "cool" place to live by reviving the city's cultural scene, Huban says.
His ambitions align with a broad redevelopment plan for Hackensack that encompasses 163 acres and 389 individual properties on 39 city blocks. The " City of Hackensack Rehabilitation Plan for the Main Street Area " aims to create a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly downtown.
"There is all this great stuff happening in Hackensack and what we need to do is empower the artists here and give them the tools to bring their art to life," Huban, 34, told Daily Voice. "I think together we can transform the city into a fun, exciting place where young people want to live."
Huban bought a condo in Hackensack in 2008 because he thought it was a "perfect location to get around New Jersey quickly." He got involved with the cultural revitalization effort two years ago when he started his comedy troupe.
"Improv comedy has always been a passion of mine," the Leonia native said. "I was doing shows at the Cultural Arts Center and I was approached and asked to be on this new Creative Arts Team."
Huban's work with the unit earned him a spot on the Hackensack Cultural Advisory Board, which advises the City Council on how to create a cultural haven.
Some of the initiatives the board is working on include installing an art gallery on the first floor of the new Performing Arts Center and lunchtime outdoor music concerts paired with deals at local restaurants.
"Little by little, we are making Hackensack a more desirable place to live," Huban said. "Everyone involved in this project is in it for the long haul and we are committed to bringing this place back."
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