Will Luxury Developments Threaten the Jersey Shore’s Working-Class Roots?

How towns like Long Branch and Asbury Park became in-demand destinations

Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ
Convention Hall, one of Asbury Park's landmark buildings.
Alexisrael/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / August 18, 2019 10:15 am

For a location that can’t really be called “controversial,” the Jersey Shore certainly sparks a lot of debate. The Asbury Park boardwalk in particular spent the 1990s and 2000s serving as a useful visual shorthand for faded glory, making memorable and thematically-charged appearances in The Sopranos and The Wrestler. The reality show of the same name served as a useful punchline for detractors of the area, while the discography of Bruce Springsteen served as a useful rebuttal. 

In the last few years, though, something’s changed in Shore towns like Asbury Park and Long Branch. Places that were known for their glory days being behind them or for esoteric music venues have become host to luxury developments, attracting wealthy residents seeking a break from city life with most of the same perks.

A new article in The New York TImes explores this ongoing clash between the region’s history and its new arrivals. A quote from Rob Miller, the owner of a travel agency and a recent condo buyer in Asbury Park, concisely describes the appeal.

“I’ve been to the Hamptons, I’ve been to Hudson Valley, and I just definitely know I’m a Jersey Shore person,” Mr. Miller said. “The Asbury Ocean Club is like New York meets the beach.”

The article goes on to cite several high-end hotels and residences that recently opened, including Long Beach Island’s Hotel LBI and Long Branch’s Wave Resort, built by Kushner Companies.

In some ways, this boom hearkens back to Asbury Park’s heyday as a resort town. But it also strikes a familiar chord, when a region’s existing population is alienated by changes on the horizon. Perhaps this will signal a further transformation of the area — or perhaps Manhattan’s forthcoming beach will keep some New York residents within the five boroughs.

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