Few towns along the Jersey Shore have enjoyed a more visible beachfront revival over the past few years than Asbury Park, the vibrant summer enclave about 60 miles south of New York City.
After decades of neglect, the working-class town that helped launch Bruce Springsteen ’s career has been transformed from a gritty backwater in the shadow of more popular locations along the shore to a hip beach destination sporting surf, sand and more palatable real estate prices than its affluent neighbors. It ’s been a popular retreat since the 19th century.
But as the town ’s profile continues to rise, attracting throngs of sunbathers from New York, New Jersey and elsewhere, so too do its home prices.
After initially struggling to attract high-end development, Asbury Park is now awash in upscale projects ranging from soaring luxury condos along the beach to smaller single and multifamily projects dotting its gentrifying downtown. Two new posh hotels regularly attract jet-setting weekenders, while a cluster of thriving eateries and arts outposts are turning the seafront town into a bustling port for foodies and culture vultures.
“I like to joke that it took 30 years for Asbury Park to be an overnight success,” says Neal Sroka, a Douglas Elliman broker. “But now Asbury is ready for more upmarket product.”
The Monroe is Asbury Park ’s highest-profile real-estate project, with architecture and design by Chad Oppenheim and Anda Andrei.Methanoia
Sroka and Elliman are spearheading sales at the Monroe, a stylish beachfront condominium with some of the highest prices — and most luxe amenities — in town. The recently completed project has already sold 31 of its 34 units, Sroka says.
The four-story timber and stone property, developed by iStar, includes private outdoor terraces with freestanding grills and fireplaces. Owners will also have the added amenity of using the facilities at the Asbury, a nearby boutique hotel with a rooftop bar and movie theater, swimming pool and Atlantic Ocean views.
Prices at the Monroe start in the $400,000s. But the property recently closed a sale for more than $1 million, a price tag unthinkable for a condo in Asbury just a few years ago, local brokers say. The three units remaining at Monroe include one priced at $715,000 and two listed at $899,000.
The Asbury Hotel is another newcomer with a number of cool features, including this rooftop movie theater.Asbury Park Hotel
“These kinds of prices are relatively new to Asbury Park,” says Ken Rickel, a broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, who has been selling homes on the Jersey Shore for decades. He ’s currently listing a waterfront three-bedroom home at 1301-1303 Locust Drive for $1.2 million with 2½ bathrooms, a gas fireplace and original beamed ceilings. “You still have many moderately priced homes for sale in Asbury, but they get snapped up pretty quickly in this market,” adds Rickel.
The Monroe condo joins a string of new or recently completed real estate developments in Asbury targeting the upper end of the market. K. Hovnanian Homes is behind South Grand, a collection of 28 luxury townhomes in the center of town with prices starting in the $400,000 range.
Developer iStar also created Vive, another 28-unit project, where owners who paid around $450,000 for homes a little over a year ago are seeing resale prices nearly twice that amount, according to Jacob Smith, a broker with Ward Wight Sotheby ’s International Realty. Smith is currently repping a seven-bedroom Victorian home at 504 Seventh Ave. with three full bathrooms and a wraparound porch for $600,000. And iStar is about to embark on its most ambitious project yet in the city: a 16-story luxury hotel and condominium on Ocean Avenue.
504 Seventh AveMotion City Media
The influx of development and new buyers pushing prices higher in Asbury Park means home values finally exceed pre-recession levels. The median price of a home reached $301,300 in June, an 18 percent rise from the same month a year ago, according to real estate Web site Zillow. Home prices are up 25 percent since June 2015, the realtor says.
Manhattan architect Matthew Berman first landed in Asbury Park more than a decade ago when there were very few signs of revitalization. “Back then people called us pioneers, but we were just really stupid, ’” he jokes.
Vacationers have come to Asbury since the 19th century.Bettmann Archive
But he and his husband, Jim Mumma, have watched prices increase along with interest from friends in New York. The couple renovated and eventually sold the home they bought in 2002 at “a very nice premium,” he says. They recently purchased an 1890s Victorian closer to the ocean and now spend most weekends there with their 10-year-old son, Owen.
“It ’s turned into a year-round location for us,” says Berman, a principal at NYC architecture firm Workshop/APD. “The city has done a great job of adding restaurants, galleries and music venues that really make Asbury not just a seasonal destination.”
Sharply spiking home values aside, Asbury Park is still a relative bargain compared to its wealthier neighbors farther down the Jersey Shore, or to those in the high-priced Hamptons and Long Island ’s North Shore. In pricey Jersey beach communities such as Belmar and Spring Lake, homes can cost almost twice as much as in Asbury.
And unlike those towns, Asbury has more homes for sale, says Robert White, manager of the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Spring Lake. He estimates that some 66 homes are currently for sale in Asbury — about a third more than Belmar.
“Asbury still attracts people looking for bargains,” says White, a lifelong Jersey Shore resident. “Buyers find that they can get much more house for the money than other Shore locations.”
While many homebuyers arrive in Asbury in search of a beachy weekend home, some are moving there full-time.
Trish Zanellato purchased a plot of land with her husband and built a two-bedroom Victorian-style home.Annie Wermiel
Trish Zanellato and husband, Peter, were living on a 4-acre property in the New Jersey town of Milford near the Delaware River when they purchased a condo in Asbury seven years ago.
The couple used it primarily as a summer home, but eventually fell in love with Asbury ’s growing restaurant scene and laid-back, dog-friendly culture, and sought to make their time there more permanent. So last year they purchased land in town and built a two-bedroom, Victorian-style home that they now live in all the time.
“We discovered Asbury Park almost by chance,” says Trish, a marketing consultant. “But we ’ve watched it blossom and grow and turn into a place that ’s a genuine all-year community.”
Much of that all-seasons feel is fueled by a booming restaurant scene and thriving nightlife aimed at the town ’s numerous second-home buyers, many from the LGBT community. A snapshot: Porta serves up wood-fired pizzas and has bocce courts; Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten pours brews; just-opened Reyla specializes in Mediterranean plates. On most weekends the beachfront pulsates with mostly young residents who pack the shops along the restored mile-long boardwalk.
Sroka says the reinvigorated seaside gives Asbury the atmosphere of its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was a fashionable resort.
“Over the past few years we ’ve really seen Asbury come back to life,” Sroka adds. “But now the city has finally arrived.”