From the NYT:
For nearly a century, the Baronet Theater in Asbury Park, N.J., was a popular venue for vaudeville theater and blockbuster films. Then it, like the city that was its home, fell into disrepair. Eventually its roof collapsed and it was demolished.
This summer, the salvaged marquee of the former theater is lit anew with the opening of the Asbury, a boutique hotel with a rooftop movie theater, complete with lawn chairs, a popcorn machine and a small bar, framed by a white picket fence and stunning Atlantic Ocean views.
The hotel offers the retro-meets-modern sensibility that now defines Asbury Park, which has once again become one of the mid-Atlantic’s top beach destinations.
Across this postage-stamp-size city are examples of the old and the new melding in a refreshingly creative way, pulling in families, professionals, young bar hoppers and a large gay population, all of them across income levels. This eclectic mix is a stark contrast to more stuffy (and staid) nearby beach towns, like Spring Lake.
“It’s Brooklyn on the beach,” said Jon Biondo, a local lawyer who runs a group called the Asbury Park Social Club, which hosts parties at venues including the Baronet Theater.
Part of Asbury Park’s appeal is that it is so easy to reach: It’s just over an hour from New York City or Philadelphia by car, and an easy ride on a New Jersey Transit train, which drops off day-trippers just a few blocks from the beach.
“It is everyone, and everything,” said Josh Melendez, 28, a bartender who works in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, but takes day trips to Asbury Park with his friends. “Straight, gay, families — you all kind of come together here.”
There is a sense of confidence in Asbury Park today, as locals and major national real-estate developers make increasingly large bets. IStar, the New York City-based real-estate company that owns all 35 acres of beachfront land in Asbury Park, and Madison Marquette, the real estate company in charge of leasing beachfront retail spaces, are planning to invest more than $1 billion in the city over the next decade.
But by far the biggest news in Asbury Park this year is the Asbury, designed by Anda Andrei, who in nearly three decades as the chief of design for Ian Schrager worked on such renowned hotels as the Delano in Miami, the Paramount in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and the Public hotel in Chicago. The Asbury is one of her first projects since branching off on her own. It won’t be her last. She has been named creative director and lead designer for 10 projects planned or underway with the backing of iStar and its partners.
The revival slowly got underway about 15 years ago; New Yorkers built up a gay enclave as they bought rundown but still beautiful Victorian homes. The city still has its gritty parts — generally in areas at least five blocks from the beach — where some homes are boarded up and where crime is still a problem. But now the rebirth of Asbury Park is no longer in question.
The only question that does remain is how much of Asbury’s character will be retained as it becomes a summertime mecca again.
“It is my legacy and obligation to not ruin this town,” Jay Sugarman, chief executive of iStar, told Ms. Andrei when he hired her to take over design of their efforts there. “We are not going to turn this into a Disneyland.”