From the Star Ledger:
About 10 years ago, waves of ritzy, new multifamily buildings along Asbury Park’s oceanfront were expected to breathe life into a city in need of repair. Properties near the ocean made way for the four-story Wesley Grove development, the eight-story North Beach condominiums and a colossal project called “Esperanza,” a complex about 10 stories tall with more than 200 units.
Esperanza even caught the eye of Hall and Oates musician, Joseph Oates, another Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to buy into a city that’s got Bruce Springsteen written all over it.
But these projects were too much and too soon for a city struggling to recover from 1970s race riots, crime and political corruption. North Beach had trouble filling its condos, and the $100 million Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish, never lived up to its name. The developer filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and all that remains are the bare bones of its foundation — an oceanfront eyesore.
City hall officials, developers and realtors now think smaller projects away from the oceanfront and near the downtown area are the best way to revive a city that was once an entertainment mecca for the Jersey Shore. They want to draw an atypical type of Shore resident.
“There aren’t any other towns like Asbury Park,” said Patrick Schiavino, a realtor and long-time Asbury Park property investor. “We’re not a sleepy Shore town. We’re kind of like Brooklyn by the sea.”
Schiavino said a lot of people moving to Asbury Park are retired couples from the New York City area who want to be by the water, but also want to be a part of a vibrant arts and culture scene. He said the city tends to attract artists, musicians and the LGBT community.
He admits Asbury Park is not for everyone. Families with children are not likely to be drawn there, he said, because the school system is “problematic,” and there aren’t many neighborhoods where children can “go out and play in the streets.”
Developers are focusing on the downtown area, taking advantage of existing structures and turning them into mixed residential and commercial units.
Sackman Enterprises, a Manhattan-based real estate management and development company, has restored the historic Steinbach building with 63 apartment units, as well as several other buildings in the area, said Carter Sackman, president.
Three months ago, Sackman purchased the Kinmouth building on Mattison Ave., which the historic Savoy theater occupies, for just under $2.5 million. Along with restoring the 20,000-square-foot theater, which has been vacant for decades, the company plans to utilize 4,500 square feet for retail space and 18,000 square feet of the upper four floors for 48 studio apartments.
Sackman said the company has budgeted $8 million for improvements and the apartments would probably start at $850 per month once they are ready to be rented.
The movement away from oceanfront development toward downtown areas reflects a trend, according to Roland Anglin, the director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers-Newark.
“The last real housing crunch has really changed the way that people view housing,” Anglin said. “We won’t be seeing large-scale towers on the ocean because the demand is not there.”
He said downtown development is an “urbanist’s dream.”