By: James Ruggia - Travel Pulse

It wasn’t that long ago that Asbury Park, New Jersey and its historic 1920s-era resort history and its important rock and roll history were being abandoned to the wrecking ball. Not anymore. The city’s art and music culture was able to inspire a surging restaurant and bar scene downtown and now even bigger plans will be coming into fruition before long. A new multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan for a 1.25 mile stretch of Asbury Park beachfront will considerably increase the town’s vitality as well as its room inventory. The 110 rooms that The Asbury will add represent the first real new hotel development in more than 30 years.

Real estate developer iStar revealed plans this week to open a well-designed boutique hotel early next summer. The hotel is being developed within the structure of a long abandoned Salvation Army building. The project is the brainchild of David Bowd, creator of the SALT hotels brand and a former executive at Andre Balazs Properties. Bowd will oversee development of the hotel and will be joined by Anda Andrei, the former president of design at the Ian Schrager Company and current design lead for the Asbury Park redevelopment. Stonehill & Taylor Architects will design the hotel.

iStar is leading the larger plan, which involves more than 20 individual projects, that will also develop residential and infrastructure projects. Ten years in the making, the plan represents an ambitious urban-revival for one of America’s more important cultural cities. Part of the plan will restore the iconic Asbury Lanes, a legendary music and bowling venue that’s been home to everything from burlesque to bingo.

“Asbury Park has a soul that makes it unique in America,” said Andrei, whose past projects include the Delano Miami, Royalton New York and The London EDITION.

“There’s a love for that behind this project. We’re mining the incredible history and one-of-a-kind character to amplify what’s already here.” Bowd agreed. “Through the properties we’re developing, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture Asbury Park’s incredible sense of place,” he said.

“We believe in Asbury Park’s potential as a one-of-a-kind place to live, work, visit, and invest,” said Jay Sugarman, iStar’s founder and CEO. “We’re excited to harness its character, beauty, and heritage to build a future full of promise.”

iStar completed Vive, a 28-townhome project, last year as a pilot program and it sold out within a day of its initial offering. Landscaping, sidewalks, street lighting, and parking have all undergone major overhauls with iStar support. The company has been a presence in Asbury Park since late 2010, when it opened a headquarters on Ocean Avenue.

Altogether, iStar’s project will add more than 2,100 homes and 300 hotel rooms to the town. Along with The Asbury, iStar will also open Monroe, a 34-unit condominium designed by acclaimed Miami architect Chad Oppenheim, next summer; and 1101 Ocean, a landmark mixed-use hotel/condominium/retail project designed by New York’s Handel Architects will open as one of the tallest buildings along the Jersey Shore.

iStar has also added beach-themed landscaping programs throughout the community, and together with Asbury Park, relocated overhead electrical utility lines underground, installed new storm-sewer systems, and restored historic streets, lighting, curbs and sidewalks. Working with town officials, iStar has also facilitated the addition of significant new parking for the waterfront and its many attractions.

Asbury Park became an important beach resort in the 19th century that by the 1920s was as popular as any in America. That success stimulated a critical mass of more than 50 hotels at the zenith of the town’s popularity that have been reduced to fewer than 500 rooms despite the town’s 90-minute proximity to New York City and the city’s legacy as a major influence on rock and roll.

A few historic recently renovated hotels still survive including the Berkeley Hotel, the Empress and the Hotel Tides.

Asbury Park Now