The New York Times

About Real Estate

Sales at High-Rise Condominium
On Ocean Front Take Patience
By Alan S. Oser
Special t the New York Times

MONMOUTH BEACH, N.J. – Rare is the condominium buyer with the patience of Jacob Greenman. “It usually takes five years for a condominium this size to sell out,” he said. His philosophical attitude explains the equanimity with which he has lived with a handful of other buyers since mid-1976 in an Oceanside high-rise condominium called – when he bought – the Shores of Monmouth Beach.
Now it has a new name – the Towers of Monmouth Beach – and all signs point to the completion of sales well before Mr. Greenman’s five years. With 94 of the 132 apartments in the twin 12-story towers unsold when a vigorous sales campaign began in April, all but 18 have been taken. That word comes from the firm of workout specialists from Washington, J.P.S. Associates, that was brought in by the construction lender, who took over the project after a default.

There are other signs of upturn along the beach. Two New Jersey developers – Ralph Pocaro of Summit and James Prisco, a general contractor – have contracted to buy an oceanside eyesore lugubriously known in this neat community as “the skeleton.” It is the incomplete hulk of what was to have been another luxury condominium, Seacoast Tower. The builder defaulted two years ago to the construction lender, the Builders Investment Group.
“It will be the last apartment house on the ocean from Sandy Hook to Atlantic City,” said Mr. Pocaro, thinking of the state’s four-year-old Coastal Areas Facility Review Act, which in effect bans apartments on the beach. He expects models for the 144 apartments and four penthouses to be ready next spring.
Among those cheered will be Sidney Johnson, since 1949 the Mayor of this almost entirely residential community of 3,000. He foresees the town’s population stabilizing at 4,000 when all the high-risers are complete. (Even before the state law was adopted, a town ordinance decreed that there could be no more.) Already the Towers project and the 221-unit Channel Towers are contributing $18 million of the $68 million in Monmouth Beach assessments.

“Those buildings stabilized our tax bills for four years,” Mayor Johnson said. Two garden-apartment condominiums also helped. When “the skeleton” is finished and occupied, it will be assessed between $8 million and $10 million.
At the Towers, Jack Studnicky, president of J.P.S. Associates, said that the average selling price of an apartment had risen in three years to $79,000 from $61,000. The buildings stand perpendicular to the beach, to provide far-reaching, north-south views, and a common lobby ties them together. There is an outdoor pool, surrounded by what had been a large barren space. The new marketing men covered the surface with Astroturf and furnished it with tables and chairs. “It took the curse off the concrete,” said Mr. Studnicky.
The mortgage holder, Fidelco Growth Investors Trust, a Philadelphia real estate investment trust, has spent $1.5 million in the new marketing campaign. The model apartment was moved from the second floor to the top floor, the better to stagger prospects with the view (in clear weather) of Manhattan’s towers to the north. Model apartments were outfitted with luxuries large and small – Mr. Studnicky is an ardent believer in garbage disposals and ice makers as essential to the success of condominium sales – and the buyers were left with the option of spending up to $20,000 over the basic price for extras.

Most buyers decline, the sellers report. The average upgrading price is $2,000, the buyers forgoing, for example, fireplaces, gold fixtures and marble floors. The typical customer’s annual income is said to be $35,000.

The models also include immense multi-bedroom apartments, but the basic product is a one-bedroom unit of 1,333 square feet and a two-bedroom unit of 1,432 square feet. The prices range from $54,000 to $101,000. There is a newly redecorated lobby, an indoor as well as outdoor swimming pool, a large community room, parking for 264 cars and a tennis court at the ocean’s edge, vulnerable to the mercies of wind and surf.

Half the buyers are said to be year-round residents. Others are in the category of Dr. Edward Partenoppe, a cardiologist from Colonia, N.J., who said his family needed a place closer than their five-bedroom retreat in the Adirondacks for escaping to periodic seclusion. He came three weeks ago, took a look and bought.

In September, Mr. Studnicky will take his sales techniques to the Village Mall at the Hillcrest project, off the Union Turnpike in Queens, another slow-selling high-rise condominium from the early 1970’s. Specializing in workouts for the banks and investment trusts, his firm has done the 206-unit Representative in Arlington, Va., among others.