The Asbury hotel ramps up the volume on a once sleepy New Jersey beach town
On a bright summer Sunday morning, cars hum along Asbury Avenue towards the beach. Past the strip malls and quaint turn-of-the-century houses, the landscape opens up to meet the Atlantic Ocean. Along the boardwalk, a few buildings hark back to the town's former surfside glory: there's a 1920s Paramount Theater with an elaborate facade, designed by the architects responsible for New York's Grand Central Terminal. A few blocks south, the Silverball "pinball" Museum houses a nostalgia-fuelled collection of vintage arcade machines.
In its heyday, Asbury Park, in the US state of New Jersey, was a popular beach getaway, packed with hotels, but the town began a slow decline in the post-war years and today the coastal area features an abundance of vacant lots. This is poised to change, however, as New York developer iStar moves ahead with an ambitious multi-billion-dollar redevelopment that includes condos, hotels and storefronts. The company's first property, The Asbury hotel, has already made a splash.
Located a block and a half from the beach and housed in a red-brick building once owned by the Salvation Army, the 110-room hotel opened its doors last summer and revealed a fresh makeover courtesy of design consultant Anda Andrei. Working with Salt Hotels, Bonetti/Kozerski Studio and interior design firm Stonehill & Taylor, she has cultivated an aesthetic somewhere between beach chic and industrial cool.
In the lobby, the existing single-storey space has been transformed through the removal of the second floor, creating a dramatic double-height entry and a lighter, airier feel. A greenhouse abuts the brick facade, adding more light and space, including a sunken couch, colourful textiles, wooden benches and "clouds" of handmade bamboo shades.
Next to the check-in desk, a giant emoji wall broadcasts the weather and the day's activities, which on this day include an outdoor film screening (Casablanca) and live jazz on the rooftop bar.
Overall, the look is more playful than plush, but that was the point. The design team says it tried to create a kind of fantasy vacation postcard come to life with spaces such as a giant "rec-room" in the lobby, where adults can feel like kids again. "Hotels are usually structured and planned," says Andrei. "With The Asbury, we created a place that sparks joy and spontaneity."
This is an excerpt from the “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ" article from the October 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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