By DON STINE
Asbury Park’s historic New Jersey National Guard Armory building, which is more than 100 years old and now houses Harold Daley VFW Post 1333, is being put up for sale.
Post Junior Vice Commander Joseph Williams, who also chairs the post’s real estate and investment committee, said the decision to sell the building, at 701 lake Avenue, was a difficult one for the veterans to make but that, in the long run , it was determined the best thing to do.
“This is a magnificently constructed building and has such a great history. We are all attached to it. But we want to take advantage of Asbury Park’s renaissance and then we can better support the Little League, veteran’s programs, and community organizations, which is really our mission,” he said.
Williams said expenses for the building are getting higher, it is getting older, and membership is declining.
“We realize we have an asset that, if redeployed into an investment portfolio, would give us a lot more income than us going out and seeking donations. Hopefully we can come up with a decent sale price and move on into the future,” he said.
Williams said it is estimated the building, along with a corner parking lot across the street at Bond Street and Lake Avenue, is worth about $4 million.
“We haven’t pinned down an exact price yet but the bottom line is, if that money is reinvested, the interest alone will help us fund other veteran and community projects,” he said.
He said the city will also benefit from the sale because the building will then go back onto the tax roles. The building is currently tax exempt.
Williams said it now costs about $8,000 to $10,000 a month to pay expenses on the building, such as utilities and insurance.
“And that is a lot of money for us to have to bring in and then only to just break even,” he said.
The post, which only has about 15 to 20 active members and a nationwide membership of about 100, still plans on staying in Asbury Park.
“We will probably look for a smaller building,” Williams said.
The lot for the armory, which housed NJ National Guard Company H during the early part of the 20th century, was purchased from Asbury Park founder James A. Bradley at the beginning of World War I. The building has a large reception/gymnasium area, a stage, a shooting range and storage garage for military vehicles, including tanks, in the basement.
The armory also has office and/or exhibit spaces on all three levels. The second floor balcony overlooks the gymnasium area, which was originally used for military drills.
“It’s in a great location, overlooks Wesley Lake, and you can easily walk to the railroad station, downtown, or the beach. The building is not in bad shape and we have done some restoration. The question now is who wants to purchase it and invest in it?” Williams said.
The armory is located in Asbury Park’s Central Downtown Business district, which itself was recently placed on both the state and national Registry of Historic Places.
“Ultimately, it is up to the builders and the zoning as to what could happen here. This is still all very early here but more information will be forthcoming. We are putting together the pieces now and exploring our options. Ultimately we need to do the right thing for our membership and for our veterans,” Williams said.