ASBURY PARK — The Asbury Ocean Club Hotel opens its doors this week, offering high-priced luxury in a coastal town that only a few years ago began to emerge from decades-long decline.
Room prices during the summer months are ambitious by developer iStar, rivaling a stay in some of New York’s most expensive hotels.
The project has attracted the attention of a wide range of hospitality and tourism industry associations and raised questions about whether the Jersey Shore and Asbury Park, in particular, can sustain such a luxury market.
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Introductory rates for the summer season start at around $425 a night, with penthouse suites renting for around $1,100. High-end prices are comparable to a stay at the Four Seasons in New York, where the Manhattan Junior Suites are advertised at around $1,300 a night at the same time. Prices listed on the hotel’s website drop during the winter, with some rooms listed for $195 per night.
The 54-room boutique hotel, located on the fourth floor of a 17-story building, is just one feature of the project, which bears the official name of Asbury Ocean Club, Surfside Resort and Residences at 1101 Ocean Ave.
The Asbury Ocean Club offers condos ranging in price from $800,000 to around $6 million for penthouses.
“Asbury Ocean Club is not just a building, it’s the resurrection of Asbury Park,” iStar CEO Jay Sugarman said in a press release this spring.
“It’s a symbol of this city’s return to its rightful glory and an opportunity for us to create the ultimate beach lifestyle for those who want the best.”
On Monday, Sugarman beamed with pride as he discussed the new building at a groundbreaking ceremony. “We stand in front of a building that many people said would never be built, in a city that many said would never come back,” Sugarman said.
Among those present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, Asbury Park Mayor John Moor, Councilwomen Yvonne Clayton and Eileen Chapman, and Councilman Jesse Kendle.
The site of the new hotel and condos has been unsuccessfully targeted for development for nearly 30 years. In 1989, developer Joseph Carabetta began building the Ocean Mile luxury condominium project on the site. He was given the nickname C-8 after the plot of land he was on.
Carabetta abandoned the project after losing a $41 million funding commitment. Carabetta filed for bankruptcy in 1992. In 2006, Hoboken-based developer Metro Homes imploded the 12-story C-8 skeleton structure and began building a 224-unit condominium complex that was to be called the ‘Esperanza, the Spanish word for ‘hope’. ”
Watch the implosion in the video above.
But as the housing market crashed a year later on the eve of the Great Recession, the company halted construction.
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Is there a request? More and more hoteliers are catering to the experience-seeking millennial generation. With that in mind, Asbury Park, with its beach and music scene, would fit the bill.
“When you charge a high rate, it’s not just about the product, it’s also about the level of service,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism. from Stockton University in Atlantic City.
“I have to believe the property would provide premium service, which would allow them to charge higher rates,” he said.
David Bowd, CEO of Salt Hotels, the operator of the Asbury Ocean Club Hotel, as well as the nearby Asbury Hotel on Fifth Avenue, said guests can expect a variety of features and amenities. luxury amenities. He showcased beach loungers with buttons that allow visitors to call for service and said there would be activities including morning yoga for guests.
Branded hotel operators have long avoided the Jersey Shore, experts said, primarily because its tourism is seasonal; visitors flock to the beaches in summer and they not only stay in hotels but also in bed and breakfasts and summer rentals.
Meanwhile, the area lacks a convention center to attract business travelers. And he’s rebuilding his business community a decade after losing big employers at Bell Labs and Fort Monmouth.
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Hotel occupancy in Monmouth County was 56.9% in 2018, but rose from a low of 38.8% in January to a high of 75.1% in August, according to STR, a research group in Nashville.
Hoteliers, however, are slowly adding rooms to the mix. The Asbury Hotel opened its 110-room boutique hotel in 2016. The Sheraton in Eatontown recently unveiled its $10 million renovation project. And the owner of the former Bell Labs building in Holmdel, now called Bell Works, has signed an agreement with Two Roads Hospitality, to operate a boutique hotel on its roof.
The idea of combining a hotel with high-end condominiums is not new. In Nashville, for example, the Four Seasons Hotels and Private Residences is building a 40-story tower near its trendy honky-tonk neighborhood, the Tennessean reported.
“The idea is that you have some high-end amenities that condo owners can partake in,” said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of STR, a Nashville-based research group.
“But as a developer, you don’t have to worry about running it, because you have a premium hotel brand or management team that does it for you. It’s a way, on the one hand, to increase the price per square foot, but on the other hand, to generate additional income because other people are using the amenities that are there anyway.
Austin Bogues sheds light on the changing development scene at Asbury Park and Neptune. He can be reached at [email protected] or 732-643-4009.
Michael L. Diamond is an economics reporter at Asbury Park Press who has written about the New Jersey economy for 20 years. He can be reached at 732-643-4038; [email protected]; and @mdiamondapp.