Long Branch, NJ: a coastal town with a mix of styles and a returning spirit

Long Branch, NJ’s history is anchored in the slats of its piers and seaside promenade, which date back centuries. In the 1800s, this Monmouth County seaside community drew presidents and artists as a premier resort destination on the Jersey Shore, then fell into disuse in the late 20th century when shopping malls suburbs have siphoned off local business customers. Crime increased and neighborhoods deteriorated, symbolized by a fire in 1987 that destroyed an amusement pier.

The city began its comeback with new investment in the 1990s and rebuilt the boardwalk after it was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It is now lined with new condo construction. And the pier that burned down in 1987 has become Pier Village, an upscale mixed-use development.

The redevelopment spans inland, with plans for new residential and mixed-use buildings around the station and along a section of Broadway (although this project is currently on hold due to a litigation involving developers).

Through it all, this city of about 30,000 people has relied on its one steadfast asset – over four miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline.

That’s what attracted Kelly Krystopowicz, corporate training consultant and surfer, to Long Branch – twice: first in 2009, and again this year, when Ms Krystopowicz, 39, and her husband, Allen Rodriguez, 46, a telecommunications technical product manager and also a surfer, returned after spending 10 years in San Diego. The couple spent $ 220,000 on a one-bedroom condo in a 1950s garden resort and plan to spend their summers there, while living most of the year in San Diego.

“We walk almost every day to the beach,” Ms. Krystopowicz said. “I love summer here. It’s so much less crowded and crowded than San Diego.

Seeing all of the redevelopments at Long Branch “made us feel more comfortable investing in the condo,” she said. “This tells us there is a demand out there.”

Best of all, the couple’s 2-year-old son “loves the ocean as much as we do.”

Nancy Pavelka, 58, a retired teacher, and her husband Bernard Fryer, 65, a physiotherapist, live in a three-bedroom house that Mr. Fryer bought in June 2019 for $ 345,000, shortly before their marriage . Mr. Fryer lived in Long Branch for many years, while Ms. Pavelka lived in nearby towns. As an interracial couple, the two appreciate the city’s ethnic and economic diversity. According to estimates from the 2019 US Census Bureau, the population of Long Branch is made up of 52% non-Hispanic whites, 30% Hispanic, and 16% black. Almost a third of its inhabitants are immigrants.

The couple visited the 38-acre Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park almost daily last summer with Ms Pavelka’s 23-year-old daughter, who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. “The rescuers would take my daughter to the ocean during their breaks,” Ms. Pavelka said. “It was really beautiful.”

Long Branch offers a wide range of housing styles in its roughly five square miles, including new waterfront condos, garden apartment complexes, and pre-war homes on small lots. “These are a few different towns in one,” said Theresa L. Capuano, agent at Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Realtors in nearby Middletown.

As in other more remote communities, Long Branch has seen a recent influx of buyers from New York City and northern New Jersey, many seeking either primary residences or weekend getaways since the pandemic. of Covid-19 has made remote working a possibility. Compared to other land-based housing markets that rely on vacation rentals, Long Branch has more residents throughout the year, including students from Monmouth University in the neighboring West Long branch, Ms. Capuano said. .

Long Branch is also attracting more and more retirees. “We’ve seen a lot of empty nesters selling the single family home and buying a condo on or near the ocean,” said George Jackson, the city’s business administrator.

Home prices and sales volumes have risen sharply over the past year. According to the Monmouth Ocean Regional Realtors Association, 273 condos sold during the year ending October 31, at a median price of $ 649,000, compared with 150 condo sales at a median of $ 545,000 during the years. 12 previous months. There were 199 sales of single-family homes, at a median price of $ 509,000, in the year ending October 31, compared to 146 sales at a median price of $ 442,000 in the previous 12 months.

A recent review of Monmouth Ocean’s Multiple Listing Service found 63 properties on the market, ranging from a one-bedroom condo in a garden resort rated $ 199,900 to a six-bedroom oceanfront mansion rated 11 millions of dollars.

With demand on the rise, “there are bidding wars for everything,” said Rose Tawil, agent at Brokers 3 Realtors in Shrewsbury, NJ.

The beach and boardwalk remain the core of Long Branch life, attracting swimmers, surfers, sunbathers and walkers. The shops and restaurants of Pier Village are popular, as are waterfront restaurants like Rooney’s, McLoone’s Pier House, Sirena Ristorante, Avenue, and Charley’s Ocean Grill.

“You go to a restaurant by the water, you feel like you are on vacation,” said Cathy Ades of Cathy Ades Real Estate in West Long Branch.

Inland, several pedestrian-friendly business districts, including the West End and Broadway, offer a variety of shops and restaurants. Nightlife options include Mix Lounge & Food Bar, Long Branch Distillery, The Whitechapel Projects, and Beach Bee Meadery, which specializes in meads and ciders.

Long Branch also owns a professional non-profit theater, the New Jersey Repertory Company, founded in 1997 with the mission of producing new plays. And horse racing enthusiasts can place their bets at Monmouth Park, a racetrack located near Oceanport.

The Long Branch Public School District serves approximately 5,800 students in eight schools: three for Kindergarten and Kindergarten, three for Kindergarten to Grade 5, Middle School and Long Branch High School. More than 80 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to the New Jersey Department of Education. About 58 percent are Hispanic, 25 percent are white, and 13.7 percent are black. For the 2019-2020 school year, SAT reading and writing scores averaged 448 and math scores 450, compared to averages of 536 in both countries.

Families also have a number of private school options in the area, including the Rumson Country Day School, in Rumson; the Ranney School, a pre-K-12 school in Tinton Falls; St. Jerome School, a Catholic elementary school in West Long Branch; and Red Bank Catholic High School in Red Bank. In addition, the Monmouth County Vocational School District has five vocational academies for high school students, which focus on subjects such as technology, health, communications, and marine science.

From the New Jersey Transit station in Long Branch, the trip to Penn Station in New York City takes about 90 minutes, with a one-way fare of $ 16.25, or $ 463 per month. The station makes Long Branch “very attractive from a commuter perspective,” said Anna Garifine, broker at Re / Max Synergy in Long Branch.

Another choice is the Seastreak ferry, which departs from Highlands, 8 miles north. The trip to New York City takes 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes and costs $ 28 one way, or $ 695 for a 40-trip package.

Long Branch is approximately five miles east of Exit 105 of the Garden State Parkway. The drive to Manhattan takes a little over an hour without traffic, although it can be much longer during rush hour.

Long Branch, named after an arm of the Shrewsbury River on the town’s north side, established itself as one of the major seaside resorts of the 19th century, with mansions and hotels serving renowned visitors and artists , including actress Lillian Russell, Buffalo soldier and showman Bill Cody, and sniper Annie Oakley. Beginning in 1869, six presidents – Arthur, Garfield, Grant, Hayes, Harrison, and McKinley – spent summer vacations at Long Branch, and Woodrow Wilson spent the summer at nearby West Long Branch. This story is commemorated at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, the beach managed by County Monmouth.

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