I had planned to write an entirely different blog this month, but with the opening of The Asbury Hotel, which I visited several times over the holiday weekend, it seemed more appropriate to talk about that and share my thoughts; the good, the bad and the ugly. Having this new hotel in town is a game changer for Asbury Park and we’re thrilled that it has finally arrived.
The launch –
Asbury Insiders anxiously awaited the completion of this hotel as we watched the transformation take place over the past several months. According to local newspaper reports, it was to officially open on Thursday, May 26th. But on Wednesday evening, around 9 p.m., I ran into a neighbor in my building who was returning from a gathering at the hotel’s outdoor beer garden. When I asked how he heard about it, he said he was just walking by. He told me it was still going on, so I decided to take a ride over. While I was there I ran into a few other locals and everyone I spoke to said they ended up there from just walking by. I think it’s pretty cool if the intention was to give everyone a glimpse of what was to come by creating a party atmosphere and then just let people find them. On Thursday afternoon the hotel officially opened to the public in unassuming style. I went back with a friend to check it out.
The grounds and lobby –
The beer garden is an outdoor space open to the public and sits on the west side of the hotel, which also leads to the pool entrance. When I arrived on my bike Wednesday evening there was music playing and a nice crowd of people hanging out; with folks popping in and out the whole time. A food truck selling hot dogs, a beer van, and some picnic tables were the main fixtures of the decor. The next day, when we were able to go inside, I walked through a set of huge, sleek doors and was surprised at what I saw; a very relaxed and casual atmosphere. I felt like I was walking into someone’s, (very large) beach house. The design team hit a home run with this project because they have completely captured the essence of Asbury Park and its community. The entire hotel says ‘fun’ from the minute you walk through the doors; a pool table and video game sit in the northwest side of the entrance lobby with blue bleacher seats against the wall to hang out on. Beach casual and laid-back, you might almost expect to see beach balls lying around, (thankfully you don’t). On the other side of the glass atrium is a conversation pit and some tables for informal dining. Upon entering the second lobby, which is the original door to the old Salvation Army building, you see the check-in counter and are again reminded of where you are with a host of colorful beach towels, and other beach items for purchase, adorning the back wall. The check-in counter also serves as a coffee and breakfast bar. On the west side of the interior lobby, along with a small bar, you will find a bit of nostalgia; there is a book-case like wall filled with old LP’s and mini cassettes. I looked through and quickly found some albums I had when I was in high school, and some my parents had when I was a kid. In the middle of this throwback is a record player where guests will eventually be able to listen to some of their old time favorites.
The hallways –
The entire hotel is very playful and colorful, even the hallways to the guest rooms are like a box of crayons, literally. There are many cool things about this hotel, but I think my favorite is the metaphoric link to Asbury Parks musical heritage. Along with the old record albums and cassettes in the lobby, there are song titles written on the walls of each floor in the guest hallways, and it’s the first thing you see when the elevator door opens. Especially clever was using David Bowie’s Ground Control to Major Tom as its theme. As many of you know, the building was originally used as housing for the Salvation Army’s retired officers, who also carry army ranks in front of their name; I think Major Copeland would be very pleased. A wonderful connection to the past and vision towards the future. You’ve really made the grade, because Asbury Park is about to take flight.
Two roof decks –
On Friday morning, I went to an 8 a.m. yoga class on the 5th floor roof deck, taught by Thea Daley of The Daley Practice, where you can see the ocean while you’re doing your sun salutations. They offer yoga there every morning and show movies at night on the east wall of the building; directly under the Baronet logo. Saturday evening was the opening of the 8th floor roof top lounge appropriately called, ‘Salvation’. The vibe immediately changes from playful child to sophisticated adult the minute you exit the elevator. And the views from every direction are pretty spectacular, adding to the ambiance of a calm and tranquil salvation at the end of your day.
What’s missing –
It takes time to work out the kinks of a new business, but there’s a few things I noticed that were missing; 1. Bike racks, many locals travel on two wheels in the summer. I’m talking about people who live or vacation within a few miles of Asbury Park. Folks as far as Bradley Beach and Avon to the south, will ride their bikes to avoid the hassle of traffic and parking in the summertime; 2. Handicap parking, on Friday afternoon I took my mother over, who lives in Asbury Tower, so she could see the new hotel, and there were no designated handicap parking spots; 3. The Boss – Bruce Springsteen put Asbury Park on the map decades ago and then we became his City of Ruins. In my opinion of course, a bit of homage would be nice – perhaps a picture or small mural somewhere with the lyrics; “rise up!”
The final chapter –
iStar Financial, who owns the building and the AP waterfront development rights, may not have rescued us, but they have certainly lifted us up to new heights with the opening of this hotel; possibly bringing us back to national status. As for the ugly, there isn’t any – unless you’re standing on the south end of the 5th floor roof deck and looking down into the failed Esperanza site. But I like to view it as hope for the future, because iStar has plans for that too; a 16 story mixed use building combining a hotel and condominiums with retail stores. And the next residential project, The Monroe, is well on it’s way to completion. By the looks of things, it could very well turn Asbury Park into a world class city. Asbury Insiders look forward to the christening of that ship and where the journey will take us next.
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