Finance & DevelopmentFinanceNew Asbury Park Hotel Marks Start of Resurgence

New Asbury Park Hotel Marks Start of Resurgence

Asbury Park, N.J., has a storied history. Founded in 1871 by New York City broom manufacturer James A. Bradley, the 500 acres of shorefront property drew more than 600,000 vacationers annually in the city’s early years. For many years, the city flourished and became a musical destination, drawing attention from John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor in the early 1900s and Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi in the mid-1970s and ’80s. But, major development in the Garden State in the ’70s eventually drew tourists away from the area, causing it to fall into a slump.

However, things are starting to change in Asbury Park, as the enthusiasm of long-time residents, partnered with the efforts of big-name developers, is bringing life back to the city. One of these projects is The Asbury, a 110-room hotel that represents the first steps of a multibillion-dollar, 10-year redevelopment plan by iStar developers. The Asbury debuted Memorial Day weekend, marking the opening of the first new hotel in Asbury Park in more than 50 years.

The project started in 2010, when iStar purchased 25 acres of developable property on the Asbury Park waterfront. Over the next three years, the company acquired 10 more acres, giving them ownership of just less than 70 percent of the developable residential property on the waterfront. According to Brian Cheripka, senior vice president at iStar, having such a large stake in Asbury Park comes with a lot of responsibility to the town and its residents. “We want the best for the community as a whole,” he comments. “Because the culture and spirit of Asbury Park can be found in the eclectic and passionate people who have lived here for generations.”

iStar has been working closely with Asbury Park residents since starting their redevelopment project, while also tapping the expertise of industry experts like architect Anda Andrei and chief executive of Salt Hotels and hotel innovator, David Bowd.

Bowd was drawn to the project that eventually became The Asbury after visiting Asbury Park about seven years ago, when he became enamored with it. “It’s such an interesting place and so true to itself. Between the art scene, the music scene, the gay scene, and the more gritty tattoo scene, creating a hotel that would be true to this neighborhood was always our intention. A branded property just wouldn’t work in such a unique location,” Bowd explains.

Located in the former Asbury Park Salvation Army building, The Asbury was created as a “celebration of summer.” The bedrooms are simple and breezy, modeled after beach huts. The lobby has a two-story ceiling, giving it an airy feel. A greenhouse was built in the front of the building to add more natural light.

The hotel also incorporates a number of quirky entertainment and dining options for guests. Near The Asbury’s pool, the hotel has its own personal beer garden, featuring local New Jersey beers and a food truck that serves different types of hot dogs. “The idea was to create an oasis away from everything going on in the city, if that’s what guests are looking for,” Bowd says.

The Asbury also has two separate rooftop areas, both with ocean views. The higher rooftop, which is above the eighth floor, has become The Salvation, a cocktail bar that functions as an elegant space to grab a cocktail. The lower rooftop, which is situated over the fifth floor of the hotel, has been transformed into The Baroness. Named for the now-closed movie theater located adjacent to the building, The Baroness is a car-less drive-in theater, able to accommodate up to 250 guests. “We’re going to come up with a schedule and have scary movies, sing-alongs, really fun events,” says Bowd, adding, “And, if you’re standing on the beach and looking at the hotel, you can definitely see whatever it is that everyone is watching.”

In all, the opening of The Asbury marks the beginning of a movement that will likely become a huge resurgence for the city of Asbury Park. Cheripka notes, “Our challenge is to provide stability and, certainly related to the redevelopment of the waterfront, bring in much needed revenue, and build upon the best of what already exists in this community.” It looks like they’re heading in the right direction.

Kate Hughes
Kate Hughes
Kate Hughes, Editor, LODGING Magazine