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Asbury Park Convention Hall Caught In Dispute [AUDIO]

The future of the Asbury Park Convention Hall came into question over the discovery of inadequate sprinkler systems, but the historic building could be shuttered ultimately because of a dispute between the city and its largest waterfront developer.

Asbury Park Convention Hall
Asbury Park Convention Hall (Wikimedia)

A recent fire inspection found the historic building to have inadequate sprinkler systems, which property developers Madison Marquette would be responsible for.

However, Gary Mottola, President of Property Investments for Madison Marquette, says unless disputes with the city over parking, maintenance of the waterfront, cost control, and the loss of Bamboozle are resolved, the company doesn’t see the Convention Hall being a smart investment.

Mottola says the company presented a proposal which would include another major redevelopment of the Asbury waterfront, including the Convention Hall, in exchange for control of 600 parking spaces, the city to maintain the waterfront, and protections for cost control.

Mottola says they received no response from city manager Terry Reidy, and he notes their agreement with the city states they had the option of either putting the sprinklers in or decommissioning the building.

“And without the protections that we needed, without the aspects of this development plan that we needed, we didn’t feel it was a wise decision to invest significant capital in the waterfront any longer.”

Reidy claims issues of maintaining the waterfront and stabilizing cost have been discussed with Madison Marquette and addressed. He believes the issue fundamentally boils down to parking, which he does not want to relinquish from public control.

“They have no right to public parking,” says Reidy.  “That’s not part of any agreement that they have.”

Reidy says from the beginning of the city’s revitalization, parking has always remained public, something that has remained constant throughout numerous developers.

“Gary is not the only person who asked for it, but he’s the only person who threatened to take his ball and go home if he didn’t get it.”

While this could potentially stall much of the major development in the city going into a crucial summer after Superstorm Sandy, Mottola says the company intention is not to be obtrusive.

He notes $92 million was already spent in the city’s development, and it’s the actions of the city manager that are causing this.

“Our proposal was not to not go forward.  Our proposal was to go forward, not with just Conventional Hall, but with other major development and we were cut down at the knees.”

According to Reidy, Asbury Park has been going through great lengths to try and help Madison Marquette finance the sprinkler system, including working with the state for approval of low interest loans.

”There are so many options and if they [Madison Marqutte] choose to do that [close down the Convention Hall], well shame on them.”

Madison Marquette and the city continue to be in negotiations according to Mottola. The development has until May to make the necessary changes to Convention Hall.

If the Convention Hall does get decommissioned, Mottola says there “is no circumstances which it gets torn down.”

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