Enormous Nostalgia Factor Drives Sales at North Beach

 An Asbury Radio Exclusive Report - Edited 11/2/05

What the so-called "Nostalgia Nazis" of Asbury Park have known for a long time, waterfront developers are now finding out for themselves. "There is an enormous nostalgia factor" among her condo buyers, says Lara Schwager, director of development for Paramount Homes of Jackson, NJ, which is developing the three-building, oceanfront residential complex north of Sixth Avenue, to be known as "North Beach." Even the site of the construction holds sentimental value, having once housed one of the grand hotels of Asbury Park's 134-year history, The Monterrey, whose memory Paramount hopes to evoke in adopting the name for part of its development. 


Interviewed at the company's waterfront trailer showroom and design center, on Oct. 20th, Schwager said she has been genuinely moved by stories from people who left Asbury decades ago and have purchased condo units in order to return here to live. "They want to be a part of Asbury's recovery," she said. (photo: Even sample boards are decorated with nostalgic photos of Asbury's Wesley Lake boat rides and other nostalgic scenes.)


And they're willing to pay well for this homecoming of sorts. Schwager says units have sold from the original starting price of $400,000 up to $1.2 million. The penthouses are priced at $1M - $2 million. One penthouse  in the Seville has been sold. Also of good news on this score, is that Amboy National, as of our interview, is fully committed to financing all 157 units. And, when we sat down with Schwager, 97 of the units had been sold, 94 as binding contracts, and 3 were in attorney review. 


However, costs of materials are rising, due to the hike in oil prices and the heightened demand on building materials coming from the southern states who're trying to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Schwager said the cost of PVC pipe alone had risen more than 30%. Paramount (www.paramountnewhomes.com) has agreements with its contractors whereby they have to absorb most price increases. But even these contracts have their limits, she speculated. Will Paramount have to pay more? It's always a possibility, she said.  "We hope we won't have to raise prices." In the case of the binding contracts on the 97 units, Paramount would have to make good on the prices they've agreed to and eat whatever differences.  Paramount Homes is owned by partners Eli Bleeman and Jeffrey Fernbach.


With building material costs rising (and their availability declining) along with interest rates (Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan raised the Fed rate to 4% today, Nov. 1), developers are obviously in a race against the clock to get their buildings up. Asbury Radio has been tracking down rumors at the North Beach site about layoffs and scheduling mishaps. Schwager explained that there has been some setbacks in the construction schedule. There were some penetrations missing in the concrete Filigree forms, as per our reports, but drilling them wouldn't have caused a construction delay, she said.  Rather it is the coordination process, coordinating among the MEP consultants -- the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire and safety professionals, as well as structural engineers, architects and the MEP coordinator -- that delayed the timing of the vertical placement of the steel, which determines the related penetrations for the steel and the timing of the concrete pours, Schwager explained. That process amounted to a delay of a few weeks and some layoffs, which she said no one wants.


Momentum is expected to pick up this month though, with construction expected to continue straight through on all three buildings: the Barcelona, the Monterey and the Seville.


Timetable for Barcelona --

Once the steel "is topped" (reaches the top of the highest level) about mid-winter - the block wall will start coming up, possibly as fast as a floor a week on the 8-story unit. Winter will not stop construction, said Schwager. Once exteriors are complete and weather-tight, including hurricane proof windows, work on the interiors will start, probably by spring.  Schwager expects to have units ready for occupancy in the Barcelona by late summer.

Interiors will feature as standard granite counter tops, G.E. Profile appliances and wood floors in main living and kitchen areas. Buyers are being helped by pre-arranged combinations that pair an assortment of different priced furnishings to make choosing a little easier.


Local Contractors Have Priority --

The project's builder, Tishman Construction Corp., has a mandate from Paramount Homes to seek out and screen local contractors whenever possible, said Schwager. For example, Derisi Iron Works, 910 Asbury Avenue, has already created the decorative iron panels Paramount is using in its showroom. A worker for Derisi, Fred Capolongo, told Asbury Radio that Paramount Homes actually sought them out. Derisi plans to bid on future work as well. And, Wanna Window, on Memorial Drive, has a bid package in as well, said Schwager.

In some cases, Tishman is restricted as to who they can use. For example, the Filigree product can only be installed by contractors licensed to install it. Otherwise the maker doesn't have to honor its guarantees on the product.  Filigree www.filigreeinc.com is the trademark name for the pre-formed concrete being used on the lower level, parking decks. Midstate Filigree Systems Inc., in Cranbury, NJ, is supplying the formed concrete.

The plumbing work is being done under Trematore Plumbing & Heating, of Fairfield, N.J. and Coates Electric, of Great Meadows, N.J., is doing the electrical contracting.


For those of you who track such things, the pilings holding the foundation were pounded about 15 feet down into the ground. Only the first half of the two-story parking garage is, 6' - 7', below ground.


Amenities --

The complex features an exterior, heated swimming pool in the courtyard. The private beach swim club, pictured in the City's waterfront plan, is "an opportunity" Paramount may enjoy, said Schwager. "We have [an exclusive] right with Asbury Partners within so many years to activate this plan. But the public swim club has to be built first according to the plan," said Schwager. 


On that Nostalgia --


Hopefully, the reality Paramount Homes has learned, that nostalgia equates directly into dollars, will earn preservationists some badly needed credibility points with other current and future developers. Let's hope that drives those developers to press Asbury Partners into living up to its contractual obligations to restore the landmark waterfront buildings it now owns: the Convention Hall, Paramount Theater, the boardwalk pavilions, the Casino, Heating Plant and Carousel House, all of which are in imminent danger of crumbling from sight. From the exiled City Historian to artists and musicians trying to marshal interest in these structures, the recurring theme is that people value unique places that hold onto their individuality through their public spaces and physical attractions -- that history provides context for our souls.


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