Rebuilding Asbury Park: Hopes dashed for Esperanza

"Asbury Partners is very sad that the current financing and real estate market has caused Metro to suspend construction on the Esperanza." -- Larry Fishman

In 2006, the demolition of the C-8 steel skeleton, a symbol of redevelopment failure, gave hope to Esperanza, the high-rise residential tower undertaken by developer Dean Geibel and  president of Metro Homes. The Hoboken developer halted construction and temporarily closed its sales office as reported in the Asbury Park Press.

Portions of the oceanfront in Asbury Park were blighted in 1984. Development never reached fruition due to a corrupt admininstration and a developer, Carabetta, who went bankrupt. In the 20 years that ensued, the city became a ghost-town. When Asbury Partners purchased Carabetta’s interest from the bankruptcy court in 2002,  it seemed that redevelopment finally arrived. This is why Geibel’s announcement that he was halting construction was a blow to those involved in Asbury Park's redevelopment.  Geibel’s efforts missed the market, and if action is not taken by Asbury Park and its designated developer Asbury Partners, the city will again experience a period of non-activity and further decline in its most desirable section – the oceanfront.

These events point to one of the most pressing issues for eminent domain reform – the capping of the effective time for blight. We have suggested 5-7 years is sufficient. In the case of Asbury Park, 25 years puts a tremendous burden on the property owners, who would develop their own properties if allowed to.  In D&M Asbury Realty LLC v. City of Asbury Park (N.J. Super.A.D.2006), property owners sought to develop their properties in conformity with the redevelopment plan. This position was rejected by Judge Lawrence Lawson in the Monmouth County Superior Court and affirmed by the appellate division in an unanimous decision. Download the opinion here. Instead, these properties lie fallow, captive to the exclusive pre-emptive rights of Asbury Partners to develop the entire waterfront. They will only release portions of their development rights upon payment of exhorbitatnt fees to the potential developers. This scenario must be addressed by the New Jersey Legislature in 2008.