From the rollicking days of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Stone Pony to the desolate boardwalk scenes in Darren Aronofsky's 2008 film The Wrestler, to today's thriving beachfront escape with a vibrant LGBTQ scene, New Jersey’s Asbury Park has witnessed several transformations over the past few decades. But the upswing on which the seaside city has found itself of late looks to continue, with news of a high-end condo-hotel project that may well be the most luxurious development yet to hit the Shore.
As part of a multibillion-dollar, 10-year plan, developer iStar will attempt to court the jetset crowd with the Asbury Ocean Club, a 17-story tower housing 54 hotel rooms and 130 condo units. Amenities will include a workout room, spa, garden pavilion, outdoor lounge with fireplace, and 65-foot pool with an adjacent full-service bar and grill.
The project was designed by the Manhattan-based Handel Architects, the firm behind the Millennium Tower in Boston and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. According to the company's website, the Asbury Ocean Club will be “an homage to the beach house vernacular – simple materials, open, light, and airy.”
Handel worked with Anda Andrei Design on the interiors, which will “feature all-Miele kitchen appliances, white lacquered custom cabinetry by Spazzi of Italy, wide-plank, bleached white oak engineered hardwood flooring, engineered stone countertops, Hansgrohe kitchen and bath fixtures, polished porcelain Marvel Calacatta walls in bathrooms, and walk-in rain showers.”
As for the units’ prices, one-bedrooms will start at $900,000, while one of the two ocean-facing penthouses will run the lucky buyer a cool $6 million. The project is currently under construction.
Naturally, a project of this magnitude is going to ruffle a local feather or two. In June, the New York Times ran an extensive piece on luxury real estate in Asbury Park that featured comments of locals in the opposition. They included Morgan Menditto, a 30-year-old mother and lifelong resident of the town, who told the Times: “This is completely destroying what Asbury Park used to be. They're closing down all the things that made Asbury Asbury, like the bodegas. They're putting up these developments and ruining our skyline. Just basically driving out anybody who is really not a rich yuppie basically.”
The concern that the introduction of Manhattan-level high-end real estate will trigger Manhattan (or Brooklyn, or San Francisco, or Seattle, etc.)-esque gentrification is not without merit. The Times compared residents' concerns over new development and the deterioration of the city's “bohemian culture” to that of Montauk on Long Island, which has evolved over time from a rustic fishing community into lavish resort town.
But John Moor, Asbury Park’'s mayor, remains optimistic that the Asbury Ocean Club and the rest of iStar's development will act as a boon to the entire city, not just boardwalk-adjacent retail. Citing the additional tax revenue expected from the project, he said in the Times piece: “It should really help advance the city, the entire 1.2 square miles, not just the beachfront.”
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The Cooperator.