Kris Moran, a Brooklyn-based film set decorator, lived in Asbury Park for several years in her youth and visits regularly. She and her family stay in a house she bought for a little less than $100,000 in 1997, four doors from her mother. She recalled the days when she had the beach to herself, but had to walk half a mile to find food. Now her 8-year-old son rakes in money at his lemonade stand on the boardwalk, and he has lots of competition from other vendors.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, when a restaurant opened, that would be a big deal,” she said.
What You’ll Find
Asbury Park is a city of 1.6 square miles, in Monmouth County, on New Jersey’s central coast. Built as a resort in the late 1800s, it has frilly, peaked Victorian architecture, three small lakes and a boardwalk nearly a mile long.
The city is split into quadrants divided by north-south Memorial Drive (or the railroad tracks alongside it) and east-west Asbury Avenue. The northeast quadrant has the waterfront and much of the desirable housing, including vintage, single-family houses (many made whole after being subdivided into rentals), condo developments and townhouses like Vive, a six-year-old iStar project with 28 units that started at $390,000 and now sell for more than $1 million.
In this quadrant, you’ll find the 1920s Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre with its connecting arcade; the 45-year-old Stone Pony music club that stoked the careers of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi; the spiffed-up Wonder Bar, emblazoned with the face of Tillie, a grinning fun-house figure that is effectively the city’s logo; and the vacant Beaux-Arts Casino Arena and Carousel House, which attract artists, skateboarders and wedding parties seeking photo ops.
Southeast is the main business district, concentrated along Cookman Avenue. Among the pioneers of the latest commercial wave are the Showroom Cinema, an art-film house; Words!, an independent bookstore; and Hot Sand, a glassblowing studio. Condos have been developed above many ground-level retail spaces.
The west side is dominated by the black and Latino communities that make up 47 percent and 30 percent of Asbury Park’s population, according to 2017 American Community Survey data. In 1970, riots erupted there in response to racial discrimination, hastening the city’s tailspin. Now multifamily buildings are attracting investors, and new businesses are emerging on Springwood Avenue, in the southwest. In March, Boston Way Village, an affordable-housing complex with 104 units, became the first major residential development to open in the area in half a century.