By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
Madison Marquette representatives paid a visit to Asbury Park recently to show off what they contended was a brave new vision for the waterfront including a proposal for a 5,000 -seat amphitheater but city officials said the amphitheater idea was hardly new.
The developer has also requested a formal letter of support to apply for tax credits the company maintains are necessary to move the stalled project forward.
Some officials said the “new” proposal has been around for four or five years and involves relocating The Stony Pony ‘s Summer Stage adjacent to the Casino’s beach side.
These iconic buildings are in critical need of renovation as they sit largely open and subject to the elements which given their location includes the corrosive effects of salt air and saltwater intrusion.
According to a March 30 letter, the city is completely behind Madison Marquette’s appeal for tax credits provided they are used to save The Convention Hall Complex, which also includes The Paramount Theatre and The Grand Arcade. Those structures are iconic to the city’s waterfront and their condition – worn down by years of corrosive effects of salt air and salt water – have been the subject of default notices.
In critical need of repair, the seaside structure has recently benefited from the restoration and reopening of the Paramount Theatre several years ago. The Grand Arcade is the architecturally significant pass-thru between The Paramount and Convention Hall.
“Basically, they have to come back and negotiate with the city” if they get the tax credits, said City Manager Donna M. Vieiro. “The city only is supporting the renovation and repair for Convention Hall and The Paramount. The City has not taken any stand on the Casino or steam plant…If and when they get the funds, the subsequent developer agreement has to be modified. They can’t decide on their own.”
“We support Madison Marquette in their efforts to get tax credits to do Convention Hall and The Paramount,” said City Councilwoman Angela Ahbez-Anderson. “As far as the amphitheater, that was something else.”
She said it only makes common sense to restore The Convention Hall Complex if you want to upgrade the project later.
“How do you have an amphitheater when you have two iconic buildings deteriorating? It does not look good to me, the optics of that,” she said.
She seems to sum up the will of the council where Madison Marquette is concerned: first prove good faith by restoring The Convention Hall Complex first. Then perhaps move on to an amphitheater.
“That makes sense: then you have three beautiful venues,” Ahbez-Anderson said. If Convention Hall is not done first and quickly, “To me, it is like you have two gaping wounds and you are not addressing either one.”
In the March 30 letter from Mayor John B. Moor to the chief executive officer of the state Economic Development Authority, he notes his support for Madison’s application for tax credits provided they go first to the restoration and repair of The Convention Hall Complex. In a separate interview, Moor noted that Paramount’s needs were relatively minor: “a new roof and there could be performances there tomorrow,” Moor said. The letter acknowledges Madison is seeking the tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority Historic Property Reinvestment Program and the federal National Park Service Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program.
“To the extent that any such tax credits are awarded to Madison for the purpose of funding the rehabilitation, repair or restoration of the city’s iconic and historic Convention Hall Complex (i.e. collectively Convention Hall, Paramount Theater and the Grand Arcade) or any portion thereof, the city enthusiastically supports the application.
“The rehabilitation on The Convention Hall Complex would undoubtedly result in a positive impact on the surrounding community,’ the mayor said.
“In the event that Madison is awarded such tax credits, the city would be prepared to expeditiously amend the existing subsequent developer agreement among the city, Madison Asbury Retail LLC (as the subsequent developer) and Asbury Partners LLC (as the master developer) dated June 1, 2010 which describes certain of Madison’s obligations with regard to the rehabilitation, repair and restoration of The Convention Hall Complex and the plans for same as well as the proposed plans for same as well as any proposed plans for further improvement of The Convention Hall Complex, the proposed schedule for such work, access to the beach and boardwalk areas, progress reporting, cooperation with the city…”
Making rehabilitation of The Convention Hall a priority is consistent with the subsequent developer agreement, the city’s Waterfront Redevelopment Plan and the existing Historic Preservation Easement Agreement among the city, the state Historic Preservation Office, Asbury Partners which was signed over to Madison, Moor noted. That easement was granted Jan. 15, 2004.