By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
As Yogi Berra famously said “It’s like deja vu all over again:’ At the first full work meeting of the year, Asbury Park’s mayor and City Council is scheduled to issue additional default notices against Madison Asbury Retail for its failure to make progress on the restoration of the Casino, Paramount Theatre and the power plant, also known as the heating plant.
The council meeting is scheduled for Wed., Jan. 11.
If steps are not taken to honor the terms of the developer’s agreement, the city “may terminate, rescind any designation or take whatever action by law or in equity as may appear necessary or desirable to enforce” the terms.
Under its obligations to the city, Madison Asbury Retail, a subsidiary of redeveloper Madison Marquette, is responsible for development, financial needs, construction, operation and maintenance of the iconic buildings and structures at its sole expense and cost and at no cost or expenses levied to the city.
Madison Asbury has failed even to protect the buildings against the elements “and both buildings have been permitted to languish and fail into a state of disrepair,” the default notices note.
In 2021 – after months of silence from the developer despite numerous letters sent from the city, Asbury Park issued four default notices but later withdrew two of them after Madison Asbury provided a progress report and proof that it had $30 million in assets over the preceding 12 months.
Mayor John B. Moor said at the time that he was relieved the developer could produce evidence of its financial health but did not understand why Madison Asbury was not inclined to use some of that money toward preserving and ultimately restoring the iconic structures which are deteriorating from neglect, the corrosive effects of salt air and saltwater intrusion.
Although the vote had not been taken yet, it seemed likely the default notices would be issued, leaving Madison 30 days to cure the deficits and Asbury Partners (a former partner of Madison) 45 days to correct the defaults.
Madison Asbury Retail is a joint venture between Asbury Partners and Madison Asbury Retail. In 2009, Asbury Partners sold its interest to iStar Financial, which is now known as the master developer.
Under the terms of what is referred to as the subsequent redeveloper’s agreement, the city has a number of options to recover damages and could recover from “individual members, managers and agents” who have had a role in the stalled projects.
The default notices maintain there are breaches in the agreement involving the Casino, Paramount Theatre and heating plant. The notices say Madison Asbury Retail failed to meet its obligation under the terms of the June 1, 2010 contract. The default notices also say Madison Asbury has failed to honor its easement to the Casino buildings issued by the state historic preservation office which sets up conditions for accessing the iconic buildings, including what condition it should remain in and how many days a year the building should be accessible to the public, for example.
That easement was granted on June 15, 2004. Without it, the developer cannot access the building. The text of the default notices also refers to the maintenance of the Grand Arcade in Convention Hall.
“…MA Retail has completely failed to meet multiple obligations” under the redeveloper’s agreement and the preservation office easement. It builds on the 2021 default which maintains failures to advance the Sunset Pavilion, the 4th Avenue Pavilion And The Splash Park. The city in May 2022 withdrew two defaults after the developer compiled – after three letters from the city – to provide a progress report on the projects and to demonstrate the company’s financial strength.
Madison Asbury “has persistently failed” to meet its obligations to the city, according to the default notices.