Asbury Park, New Jersey, literally exists as a city divided. The North Jersey Coast Line, a commuter rail line that leads to New York City only 60 miles away, runs right down the middle of the city, dividing it into east and west sides. In its heyday, the east side was known for its prime beachfront while its west side was characterized by Springwood Avenue, a street known for its lively nightclubs and music scene. But rioting in the early 1970s brought Asbury Park’s cultural life to a startling halt, and the west side was hit particularly hard. “From 1973 until 2011, not a single permit was pulled for a new commercial building on that side of the city,” says Stephen J. Carlidge, principal at Shore Point Architecture. Which is part of what makes Springwood Center, located at 1201 Springwood Avenue, a groundbreaking project. It is the first building to go up under Asbury Park’s ambitious west side redevelopment plan, and it represents not only the city’s commitment to improving the community, but also the unique steps it’s willing to take in order to get there.
Springwood Center sits on an urban brownfield site that was once home to an underground oil storage tank. With the help of capital taken from the New Jersey Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, Asbury Park cleaned up the land so that it met EPA clean-lot standards. Interfaith Neighbors, a local nonprofit that is working to regenerate the area, bought the site from the city for next to nothing. “Springwood Center actually sits on three adjacent city lots,” Carlidge says. “Asbury Park sold them to Interfaith Neighbors for one dollar.” Asbury Park and Interfaith Neighbors co-own the three-story building: Asbury Park owns the second floor, Interfaith Neighbors owns the third, and the two stakeholders co-own the ground floor.
“We wanted to make a big splash on a small budget,” Carlidge says of Springwood Center’s looks. In order to drive pedestrian traffic and streetscape interest, the architect sited the building hard on the corner and finished it in glass, corrugated iron, concrete block, and HardiePanel, a fiber cement siding. Working together, the materials not only help Springwood Center fit into its industrial context, but they also make the building look extremely contemporary. “We wanted to make people stop and look,” Carlidge says of his material palette and form choices. And the spire? Even though Asbury Park limits new construction to a 30-foot vertical height, the city building code allows for spires. Carlidge added one for extra visual oomph.
Sunlight and Shade
Springwood Center’s design incorporates smart, low-key green features that boost the building’s sustainability, starting with the roof. “We canted the top of the building seven degrees so that it slopes away from the building on the south and the east,” Carlidge says. This design move turns the roof into a canopy that helps shade the building, reducing heating and cooling needs. The roof is also structured for a solar array, and Interfaith Neighbors hopes to add one once it has the funding. Inside, the building features bamboo floors, no-VOC paints, Energy Star appliances, soy-based blown-in insulation, and high-performance glazing on its windows, all of which are operable. Carlidge paid extra attention to the lighting, installing motion and daylight override sensors inside and outside. If a room is unoccupied, the lights go off, and if the sun is shining, the building’s lights adjust to cut down on artificial light output and energy consumption.
A Unique Incubator
Springwood Center’s program is unique. On the first floor, a police substation abuts other retail spaces, Asbury Park’s new senior center occupies the entire second floor, and up on the third floor, eight families rent out affordable housing units managed by Interfaith Neighbors. The mixed uses, although unusual, have so far proved an incredible success. “The housing units are occupied, and the public spaces are always busy,” Carlidge says. “The senior center especially—many people come in the morning and eat their three meals here. They stay the whole day.” Interfaith runs two booming businesses geared toward community prosperity on the first floor. In one space, a business incubator teaches Asbury Park residents how to start and run small businesses. In the space next door, Interfaith runs a culinary and restaurant training program, where local teenagers learn how to work in front-of-house and back-of-house positions. Each program lasts 16 weeks, and employment is guaranteed with successful completion.