The plot of land at the north end of Ocean Grove’s boardwalk has sat empty and abandoned for four decades, an eyesore at the edge of what’s known as “God’s Square Mile.”
But that may soon change. A plan is in the works for a 40-room hotel, condos, single-family homes, restaurants, shops and parking.
“The development will bring an architectural anchor to the north of Ocean Grove,” said Michael Badger, President of Ocean Grove’s Camp Meeting Association, which owns the land in Ocean Grove. “The residents will be able to shop and eat in a newly built environment. That site has lain fallow – it’s an eyesore. Many people will be pleased to see lovely, welcoming boardwalk shops where previously there had been a vacant lot. Visitors will be able to stay at the hotel and enjoy ocean views.”
Ocean Grove, an unincorporated community in Neptune Township, was founded by Methodists in 1869 as a permanent camp meeting location. The founder of Asbury Park, James A. Bradley, purchased the land for Asbury in 1871 after converting to Methodism while attending a camp meeting in Ocean Grove.
The last structure to be built on the North End parcel was in 1911, when the North End Hotel opened along Wesley Lake and just south of the entrance to neighboring Asbury Park. The hotel was considered the epitome of luxury but ultimately was demolished in 1980.
OGCMA and Neptune Township began working on the redevelopment plan almost 12 years ago, but the project was delayed when real estate values plummeted in 2008.
“The time is right for the development to take place,” Badger said. “This will be an iconic landmark endcap.”
Ocean Grove North End Development LLC will develop the site.
No timeline for the project has been set, but in April OGCMA signed an options agreement for OGNED to receive approvals to start development.
“When it comes to redevelopment in Neptune Township our goal is to bring forward projects that will have a positive impact on our entire community,” Neptune Mayor Nicholas Williams said. “When it comes to Ocean Grove, we also want to make sure that any projects that ultimately seek approval do nothing to harm what makes it the jewel of the Jersey Shore, and preserve its charm and historical integrity that has been so carefully maintained for generations.”
Said Janet Manni of Re/Max Gateway Ocean Grove: “I’m very excited about the North End development. It has sat vacant for over 40 years, so it’s exciting to see that after many false starts it looks like it’s really going to happen.
“Parking is a real issue in Ocean Grove, so the fact that a parking garage with 150 spaces is part of the build is delightful. Ocean Grove real estate is hot, hot, hot. If a home is priced within reason in Ocean Grove, it not only sells but we likely will get multiple bids. Inventory is way down, which is driving prices up.”
Kathryn Phelps, who owns the Jersey Shore Vibe website, said Asbury Park’s recent revival means “Ocean Grove must once again compete with them for tourist dollars [and] the new project on the North Side site will perhaps begin a newfound connection to Asbury.”
Ted Bell, curator at the Ocean Grove Historical Society, said it’s high time to see the plan come to fruition.
“Various groups want to see action,” Bell said. “Now that Asbury Park is into major construction, they want to see the north end be a beautiful entrance to Ocean Grove. … Ocean Grove and Asbury Park have an intertwined history. While each community has its own character and architectural style, the two communities value their historic neighbor.”