A multi-billion-dollar redevelopment is transforming a 1.25-mile stretch of Asbury Park waterfront with dynamic residential, hotel, and infrastructure projects
by Laura D.C. Kolnoski • Photos By Amessé Photography
Anyone who hasn’t visited Asbury Park recently now has plenty of reasons to do so, along with ample places to stay, live, dine, dance, shop, and celebrate. During the summer, the wide, clean, patrolled beaches welcome throngs who stroll the historic boardwalk and sample its eclectic retail and culinary options. Asbury is continually expanding and improving, and visitors are supporting this impressive resurgence.
Propelling the city’s new era is iStar, the development firm that owns 35 acres along the waterfront. With some projects completed, others in progress, and more on the drawing board, iStar builds it, and people come. The face of iStar in Asbury is Brian Cheripka, a New Jersey native and the company’s senior vice president of land and development. Since joining the company in 2010, Cheripka has been responsible for strategic planning, acquisitions, sales, marketing, and site construction.
Before iStar, Cheripka directed the development of multifamily residential projects for Trammell Crow Residential and gained national experience with Hovnanian Enterprises as a land-acquisition manager. After graduating from Villanova University, he served as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army.
“Asbury Park holds a special place in the heart of anyone who spent a significant portion of their formative years nearby,” Cheripka said. “We all know about Asbury’s rich heritage, its music culture, and its great beach and boardwalk. To lead the revitalization of this incredible waterfront feels like I’m giving back.”
After opening its Asbury headquarters in 2010, iStar initially was a lender, providing capital to Asbury Partners, LLC. When progress stalled, iStar founder and CEO Jay Sugarman took over as master developer. A strategic plan was formed to prepare the waterfront for future growth, and more than 20 projects are planned over the next 10 years, Cheripka said. In total, iStar will add more than 2,100 homes and 300 hotel rooms to the city, strengthening Asbury Park’s tax base, employment opportunities, and economic backbone.
“iStar knew the only way to make sure this long-overdue change takes place was to embrace a more direct role,” he said. “The community is deserving of new housing and hospitality for residents and visitors. Our land position and investment timeline allows us to think long term, setting us apart from developers who came before us. We want to harness Asbury Park’s legendary character and identity and reinvigorate the area with the crucial programming and infrastructure that will lead to long-term economic prosperity for the city and its residents.”
An ongoing beautification project started by iStar added parking, landscaping, sidewalks, street lighting, among other welcome additions. With help from developer Madison Marquette, iStar’s partner in the redevelopment of Asbury’s boardwalk, the instantly popular “North Eats” food truck area on the boardwalk’s northern end opened last year. Nearby Atlantic Park will become a new community hub and specialevents venue, and iStar has established mutually beneficial partnerships with local businesses, cultural institutions, entrepreneurs, artists, and community groups.
Properties chosen for redevelopment were longtime city anchors that had fallen into disrepair, Cheripka said. The company assembled an all-star team. Anda Andrei, formerly director of design with the Ian Schrager Company, is the creative lead for the entire redevelopment and she hand-picked designers and architects. Other partners include architects Gary Handel (The Dream, Four Seasons Miami), Paul Taylor (Ace, Nomad), Chad Oppenheim (Ten Museum Park Miami), landscape designer Madison Cox (Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech, Spring Garden at the French National Museum at the Château de Blérancourt), and landscape architects Melillo & Bauer Associates.
“Asbury Park has a soul that makes it unique in America and there’s a love for that behind this project,” said Andrei. “We’re mining the incredible history and one-of-a-kind character to amplify what’s already here.”
“When complete, these projects will serve as building blocks for future development and will help create the fabric of the waterfront community,” Cheripka said.
PROGRESS REPORTS VIVE
It quickly became apparent to iStar that new housing inventory was sorely needed in Asbury Park. Vive, a 28 two- and three bedroom luxury townhouse project located on a prominent corner two blocks from the boardwalk, with private entrances and two-car garages, was completed in 2013. It sold out within a day of its initial offering, and more than 1,000 people expressed interest in the units.
“While it may have been a shock to some, we were far from surprised by that response,” Cheripka said. “Vive was the right development to bring in first, as it was in a great location and attractively priced to drive sales and generate excitement. Our success at Vive enabled us to accelerate the timing of our next projects.”
The city’s first new hotel of its size in over 50 years transformed the long-vacant, seven-story former Salvation Army building on Fifth Avenue into The Asbury, a 110-key independent boutique hotel two blocks from the beach, designed by Stonehill & Taylor Architects. Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, The Asbury “will be the place to be,” Cheripka said. The lobby’s front desk will double as The Counter, a grab-and-go kitchen where guests can order coffee or purchase from a retail store. A ground-floor lounge will feature ping-pong tables, pinball, and board games. Guest rooms range from queen and king to family-sized, and suites and bunk rooms sleep up to eight. Accommodations feature large closets, custom mattresses, and plush linens. Beach and music-themed art adorns the walls.
A quintet of new hotel venues will cater to locals and guests. The Baronet, a rooftop garden featuring city and ocean views, offers oversized games and paddling pools by day. At night, classic and cult films will be projected on a 20-foot wall.
The Pool will be a sanctuary for guests with plentiful seating, a large deck, and bar. On Sundays, the pool opens to the public for parties featuring DJs and specialty cocktails. At the adjacent Beergarden, food and beer trucks will serve street food, craft and local beers, and signature drinks. On the upper roof, the nearly 4,000-square-foot outdoor social venue Salvation offers sunset views, and local DJs and celebrity artists will rock the house nightly. Soundbooth is the hotel’s casual lobby bar.
The hotel’s Asbury Hall & Lawn is a 4,800-square-foot indoor/outdoor event space with advanced AV equipment, divisible into two or three smaller spaces. Joining Andrei and her team on the project is David Bowd, known for creating the Salt Hotels. Bowd will program and manage The Asbury.
“This is our labor of love,” Bowd said. “The end result is a collection of rooms, amenities, and experiences that show The Asbury is for all kinds of people, just like Asbury Park itself.” Bowd’s impact on the city has been additionally profound. The free 10-week Salt Hotel School he created to train local residents for the hospitality industry recently graduated its first class of 110 students, with 60 of them hired by The Asbury. The other 50 will be considered for positions around the city.
Sales are under way and completion is slated for this fall at Monroe, a stylish, sophisticated 34-unit luxury condominium designed by Chad Oppenheim at the corner of Monroe Avenue near Asbury’s bustling downtown. The wood and stone design features open floor plans, large windows, and “outdoor rooms” to maximize ocean breezes.
As integral to Asbury Park’s hip urban vibe as the Stone Pony, Asbury Lanes, located near The Asbury hotel, is much more than just a bowling alley. Fans were alarmed when iStar announced it would close and renovate the legendary venue, and speculation on the end result is rampant. Cheripka predicts a summer 2017 reopening.
“I can’t disclose any of the particulars yet, but I can say iStar is committed to preserving this iconic property, which has played a vital role in Asbury Park’s music history and serves as a key source of inspiration for its renaissance,” he said. “The venue will remain true to its roots, and serve as a music and, yes, a bowling venue.”
For more than 20 years, the abandoned concrete shell of what was supposed to be a catalyst for Asbury’s rebirth called The Esperanza (“hope”) stood across from the boardwalk. It now belongs to iStar. Rechristened 1101 Ocean, plans now call for a mixed-use hotel/
“Our plan has always been to take the time to do these projects the right way, delivering meaningful change where others have failed.”
condominium/retail project designed by New York’s Handel Architects. Completion at the site on Ocean Avenue across from the beach is projected for 2018.
“We look forward to breaking ground on 1101 Ocean soon,” Cheripka said. “Our plan has always been to take the time to do these projects the right way, delivering meaningful change where others have failed. Our hope is that it will stand as a crown jewel in the revitalization, ridding the city of an eyesore.”
As part of its community outreach, iStar created “The Crew” with Madison Marquette, an ambassador training program that teaches employment skills and coaches locals on welcoming visitors. Partnering with the Boys & Girls Club (Cheripka sits on its board of directors) and the city’s school district, iStar will recruit students for summer Crew jobs. Some 30 new ambassadors will be hired this year.
“We believe in Asbury Park’s potential as a one-of-a kind place to live, work, visit, and invest,” said Sugarman. “The opportunity to design this much oceanfront land almost never comes along. It gives us a chance to do something really special.”
“We have several other creative ideas we are working on,” Cheripka concluded. “We are excited about the road ahead.”