Published in the Asbury Park Press, Tuesday, December 11, 2007
A blip in beachfront boom
Esperanza halts condo construction
By Nancy Shields • COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU • December 11, 2007
ASBURY PARK — The Hoboken developer building the 224-unit Esperanza high-rise on the city's beachfront says it is temporarily closing down the construction site and sales office.
Dean Geibel, president of Metro Homes, said the company recently informed the city that it was halting construction and sales "until such time market conditions allow us to move forward and successfully complete this important luxury beachfront development.
"We are convinced that the national mortgage crisis now impacting real estate markets around the country represents a temporary setback, and we remain fully committed to Asbury Park and its rebirth," Geibel said in a telephone interview Monday.
Geibel said there are sales contracts on about 70 of the condominium units in the two-tower building, which is three stories out of the ground and is being constructed on the site of the failed C-8 condominium project that dogged the city for 17 years until Metro Homes imploded the unfinished steel skeleton in the spring of 2006.
Geibel said the money people put down on their units is being held in escrow. "It's too early to decide how they'll be impacted," he said.
The Esperanza promised buyers beachfront homes with hotel amenities in an architectural design that evokes images of waves and ships.
"I understand what they're going through, and I do not blame them," said City Councilman John Loffredo, who said that Metro Homes had told the city a couple of months ago that it might have to alter the design.
Loffredo, who wants the Esperanza built as is, said redesigning it would mean starting over with the city's technical review committee and Planning Board to get a new project approved.
Metro Homes' decision comes as Madison Marquette, the national retail developer, has formed a joint venture with master developer Asbury Partners and is restoring and renovating the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, the Casino, the Power Plant and boardwalk pavilions.
City Manager Terence Reidy said he talked to about 50 investors at a luncheon Monday at the Market In The Middle restaurant downtown.
"I feel badly about this hiccup with Metro Homes. Dean has come to us and said he's regrouping. This is a good time to do it, in light of winter and the market. I think it's a positive strategic move for Dean. . . . We'll be there and work with him every step of the way."
"I think what is so significant about Asbury Park is a solid stream of people coming in to fix up homes, starting businesses," Reidy added. "The foundation is so strong in this city now that it's not built on one person, one developer, one project. . . . It's literally built on thousands of people who are coming in saying, "This is where I want to live.' "
Bob Davis, president of the Rumson-Fair Haven Bank, which plans to open a fourth branch to be known as the Asbury Park Community Bank in the city's downtown next April, said he did not think the news about Metro temporarily closing down affected his bank's project.
Local businessman Steve Troy, who is on the city's Planning Board and a leader in the Chamber of Commerce, did not like the news that Metro is shutting down, saying it is happening at a time when the city's revival seems to be particularly successful.
"This (Metro Homes) really is more a statement about the turmoil in the real estate market than the future of Asbury Park," Troy said.
Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno said he found out about Metro Homes' decision on Friday.
"They have to regroup, may have to downsize it, refinance it," Bruno said. "I guess they're not going to have enough money to finish this project. It won't be as high-end as they thought it would be."
South end slowdown
With the site between Third and Fourth avenues closing down, it will mean that only Paramount Homes is still building on the waterfront north of the newly reopened and renamed Berkeley Hotel.
Earlier this year, Kushner Cos. made significant changes in its housing investments, and its affiliated company, Westminster Communities, halted going forward on its second block at the south end of Asbury Park next to Wesley Lake. Westminster opened a new sales office at its existing site of townhomes and condominium flats to sell those units already built.
Larry Fishman, chief operating officer of Asbury Partners, the master developer that bought up the waterfront and sold off parcels to individual developers, said Monday that a number of companies, including Madison Marquette, are interested in buying out Westminster's real estate interests.
Gary Mottola, Madison Marquette's president of investments, could not be reached for comment.
"Asbury Partners is very sad that the current financing and real estate market has caused Metro to suspend construction on the Esperanza," Fishman said.
"It's a great building in a fabulous location," he added. "Reported sales were going well in terms of pre-sales and prices despite an overall negative market. We are hopeful Metro will be able to start construction soon or sell to another developer."
Fishman said the building was designed three years ago and Metro may require certain modifications that affect both the marketability and profitability.
Fishman said he could not comment if his company could decrease the amount of money it is slated to make as the master developer on the Esperanza.
Geibel said Metro Homes is not stopping construction or sales or any of its other projects, including the huge Trump Plaza Jersey City condominium project. Metro and partner Donald Trump are the builders.
"There are some adjustments that have to be made," Reidy, the city manager, said. "We don't live in a static environment; we live in a world that is in flux. I think Metro Homes is a solid organization and I think they have a very positive vision. We'll work together."
CARE TO COMMENT?
dankaplan, if you reread my comment, there is no mention that my business failed. I simply stated I moved my business to a thriving, safe area. Not sure about the tillie guy but I do know a few business that left. I know many people who moved out of Asbury in the past year. My business did pretty good in Asbury. I left once again, because of the bs in Asbury and mainly because of the trash. Living there, I witnessed many a morning, prostitutes, crack addicts, etc. and many times heard gunshots. I simply thought my life was more deserving. If you must know I opened my business in Lavalette. I , once again, thought Asbury was going to be the Old Asbury we all loved. As for advice my dear, this is my third location I opened so I evidently know what I am doing. By the way I have been back to Asbury , I know quite a few of the merchants. They tell me the truth of what is going on. Not impressed . Did you hear about the family held at gunpoint on Cookman. ?
12/14/2007 7:30:34 PM
Angelface, I'm sorry to hear that your business failed. It seems like you and Tilliesdead had bad experiences in Asbury Park. Opening a business is a significant endeavor and can take planning, including a contingency for failure. I hope you have such a plan for your new business in the other town. What town is it? What type of business? I hope this time you sought the advice of someone who could develop a business plan with you. If you come back to Asbury Park sometime, you can see the families, singles, couples, young and old attending events along the waterfront. The rest of Asbury Park is cleaning up, and currently there is a variety of levels of "cleanliness". Currently, I'd recommend only about 3/4 of the city to families with children, and much less at night. That will change. It is a good feeling to support a place that has such a brighter future over the next few years and decades. I hope you have found something that you can support, be happy with, and be proud of.
12/14/2007 9:55:52 AM
I jumped on the boat 3 years ago!!!!! I JUST JUMPED OFF!!!. I not only lived in AP , I opened a business. I was so sick of the BS in that town, never mind the rapes, shootings, burglaries, gangs, etc. I was pro ASbury, defended it everytime someone knocked me down and told me I was crazy. They were right. Yes, Asbury has lots of good people living there but the bad is BAD, very ugly and scary. I now live in a very peaceful area where I hear the ocean in the still of the night, not gun shots. My business in thriving in another beach town where families cann not only go to the boardwalk but can walk ALL over the town. Yes, progress has been made but they should put more effort in cleaning up the streets first then the waterfront . Good Luck to all. Its so sad what is happening to what was once a beautiful beach town. They missed the boat trying to sell the upscale crap. The new Asbury will never be the old Asbury. The other reason I left.
12/13/2007 9:31:03 PM
I have a problem with building low income housing by the beach as well. It will not work. Just look at the souyth west section of town. That is the area that needs the most help. Fix up the neighborhoods there, not shift people around. People need to learn how to take care of themselves before they can take the responsibility of owning their own home in the tourist area. No one wants to see people throw garbage on the ground, or people who don't know how to rake leaves etc... I don't see the benefit of putting low income housing in the tourist area.
12/13/2007 4:05:33 PM
OK what was that article. That guy died for his nice or daughter or something to that extent BUT SHE WAS IN A GANG>>>>> They weren't trying to hit him; they were going for another gang member. I'm sure he knew she was in a gang. It's sad true, but think about it this way 2 gang members of the street. And maybe that girl will rethink about being in a gang and start to convince others. Unfortunately the world need martyrs. Stopping gangs starts at home.
12/13/2007 3:39:58 PM
>>>So people get shot every now and again. They probably deserve it<<< Yeah, Silver, they probably deserved it: http://thecoaster.net/wordpress/?p=1668 I guess you subscribe to the Sharpe James school of sociology - "They ain't shootin' at me!"
12/13/2007 2:53:33 PM
IT DOES NOT STOP AT THE BEACH FRONT. THE BEACH IS FOR THE UPPER CLASSES which is fine . It gives me something to aspire to. If they put AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON THE BEACH I WOULD BE PISSED OFF because i would not qualify. Why give the poor the best location????? That�s Madness.
12/13/2007 2:19:24 PM
Ok I've been reading posts on all the stories. I find it pretty funny how people just go after any thing about AP. They say its a ghetto, everyone that bought there got ripped the school systems suck yada yada... I moved to AP 3 years ago I almost bought a house on the "bad side" I really did not care because its really not that bad. Secondly all the people that criticizes AP where do you live? I have A side walk a house with a nice size yard and 9 blocks from the beach. We have some of the best restaurants on the shore, an art community that can rival any jersey town. So people get shot every now and again. They probably deserve it gangs are a problem everywhere. Here people get shot Manalapan Egg harbor kids die too usually OD under their parents nose. No i don�t have kids and guess what if i did i would send them to private school anyway. One more thing there are at least 6 houses that have been redone or built on my block and 2 more in the process of being redone.
12/13/2007 2:18:19 PM
Emile,�thanks for pointing me to that Esperanza web site.� I never looked there before.� Yes, the advertiser could have done better with the boardwalk picture.� Asbury Park's boardwalk looks similar, but the diagonal boards give it more character.� Also, the benches in Asbury Park are a bit newer and cleaner looking.� I've never seen that particular girl in the surf and the bowling balls look newer than the ones at Asbury Lanes.� I guess they used artistic license.� On the nightlife page,�the bar picture looks similar to the Harrison, the microphone looks like something I'd see at Georgie's on Karaoke night and the mixing board scene is something I'd see at Paradise or the Circuit.� On the dining page, the latte looks like one I've gotten at Wish You Were Here, the red chairs at the long table look like one of the coffee shops, maybe�America's Cup.� The food looks like something I've seen on my dinner plate at Moonstruck, Isabella's, or Laila's.
12/13/2007 12:46:28 PM
P.S. If you go to esperanzanj.com and click on community, the site tells you "However you choose to entertain yourself in Asbury Park, you're promised something new, something fresh and something never seen before." Then you click on recreation, and they show a picture of AVON's boardwalk. If that doesn't speak volumes about where the developer's heads were, I don't know what would.
12/13/2007 11:18:16 AM
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- Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.