By PETE WALTON
It could cost more than $10 million to turn a borough-owned church in Bradley Beach into a community center.
The estimate by DIGroup Architecture of New Brunswick was presented late last week to the borough, which hired the firm to develop a proposal for the former First United Methodist Church on LaReine Avenue.
The borough purchased the building from the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for $1.3 million in January 2020. It was recently named as an endangered historic site by a statewide preservation group.
The projected “mid-year 2024 hard construction cost” estimate of just more than $10 million includes $1.94 million for mechanical, plumbing, electrical and fire protection systems; $1.88 million for exterior renovation; $1.27 million for interior finishes and fixtures; $622,475 for site work and $314,528 for demolition.
The largest single line item is nearly $2.2 million for “general conditions” plus contractor overhead and profit (P&O), bonds and insurance.
The Bradley Beach Borough Council will hold a special meeting on Wed., June 15 at 6:30 p.m. to hear public questions and comments on the proposal.
“We’ll also discuss the [opinion] survey we are developing, a potential for a referendum, and the path forward to make a decision on this project,” Mayor Larry Fox said.
The estimate by DIGroup and related documents can be viewed at the borough’s web site, bradleybeachnj.gov, by entering the word “projects” in the search box.
DIGroup and the Middletown-based engineering firm of T&M Associates previously provided information which was discussed at a number of public meetings leading up to the estimate which is now in the hands of the mayor and council.
“The final program was filtered through a net that considered the local demographics, existing conditions, future use, cost, constructability, the surrounding neighborhood, visitors and the pedestrian friendly character of Bradley Beach,” the architects said in their report. “DIGroup Architecture and T&M Associates are here to support the community as they weigh the next steps of the way forward for this project. We look forward to the future discussion of this project and anticipate the adaptive reuse of the First United Methodist Church will bring new life to an already landmark location in the Bradley Beach community.”
Last month, Preservation New Jersey designated the former church as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state.
“The borough is deciding on whether to convert it into a community center or sell it to a private developer, which could spell demolition for new construction,” PNJ’s Dale Perry said. “Architects retained by the borough presented residents with three proposals for turning the church into a community center and were met with objections from some residents and elected officials concerned with cost,”
Former mayor Gary Engelstad, who made the motion to buy the building and voted to do so in 2020, said in an April letter to The Coaster that “if people going about their daily lives and celebrating their faith is historic, then every old house in Bradley Beach would meet that criterion.”
“I was very heartened to see the fliers that have been mailed throughout town asking for donations for the Friends of the Bradley Beach Community Center,” Engelstad said in his letter. “I hope the group raises the millions necessary to repair, refurbish, staff and maintain the building because borough taxpayer dollars should not.”
Paul Neshamkin, the local resident who leads the Friends of the Bradley Beach Community Center, said he hoped the recognition by Preservation New Jersey “will encourage the borough to understand that the church building is endangered, and we must proceed in a direction that both preserves history and improves the quality of life in Bradley Beach.”
Even though the present and former owners of the church building have not been required to pay property taxes, the land and improvements at 319 LaReine Ave. have an assessed valuation of $2,545,100 for 2022, according to Monmouth County tax records.