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Long Branch: The property at 162 Broadway, formerly the Lighthouse Mission, which was recently torn down, was sold to '9 Memorial Parkway- LLC' in a transaction approved by the City Council on Tuesday. The property is located in the Broadway Arts Center district as part of the redevelopment plan set forth originally in 2006. The redevelopment plan set out to be a major step in cleaning up lower Broadway section of the city. So far, it seems to have been an all but a dead-in-the-water bit of progress
Over the years, this area of Long Branch, also referenced as Lower Broadway, was extensively lost to a high crime rate, drug traffic, property deterioration, disinvestment, abandonment, gangs and stagnation.
It was also the victim of other socioeconomic changes.
The Garden State Parkway opening traffic diverted business away from the city to other shore towns, especially beach generated business. The popularization of air conditioning and residential pools also played a roll in shrinking much of Long Branch's tourism. In addition, the introduction of malls attracted business away from city merchants over the period of the 1950s and later. Then of course the pier fire in 1987 just about put the nail in the coffin.
In the early 2000s, things began to improve drastically with the construction of Pier Village, Beachfront North and an overall rediscovery of Long Branch's assets and its beaches and old world charm neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, downtown wasn't as lucky. Some commercial properties in the lower section of downtown were subject to eminent domain takings, court suits and the continuing economic downturn since 2008. Lower Broadway has sort of reverted backwards with structures boarded up and squatters taking up residence in some of them. Talk continues on redevelopment down there but nothing substantial has really happened since Siperstein's Paints boarded up their building and moved to the old Monmouth Lanes on Joline Ave. The move was to prepare for the proposed redevelopment. The first real sign of life once you pass Five Corners and head west on Broadway is a few stores near the cool, quaint and bussling Cafe Lape on the corner of Liberty and Broadway. They managed to remodel that building in the early 2000s and maintain a constant, steady business- them and Lucky Cheung's directly across the street are sort of two acceptions to the rule in that area.
The sale of 162 Broadway by the city to a private firm may be a signal of fundamental change in how the city wants to manage the redevelopment plans, using a parceling approach where sections of the redevelopment zone would be developed by smaller groups rather than the original plan to have all fall to one developer. That philosophy has not worked so far for downtown. We can only hope the City works to help and guide those smaller groups toward bringing Downtown Long Branch as close to its hayday as possible.
The sale price was $475,000. A decent price for the City to get considering many downtown properties were going for around the mid- 200s less than 10 years ago.