The New Jersey property’s plan for emerging from Chapter 11 include recruiting a new executive chef and focusing on families and weddings.
Ocean Place Development LLC, owners of the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, N.J., which is currently in Chapter 11 legal proceedings in bankruptcy court, has engaged a Maryland-based hotel management firm to cut costs and make changes to the facility, which they still hope will be the future center of a mixed-used redevelopment project, reports the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.
Representatives of Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company, Greenbelt, Md., have been at the oceanfront property since early April, shaping new short-term strategies and plans that will include recruiting a new executive chef before the start of a busy summer season that is expected to include more than 70 weddings, with sometimes two weddings held at a time on warm weekend days and nights.
“We will continue to focus on the resort as a corporate conference center,” said Gary Williams, President of Coakley & Williams. “We also will focus on families, particularly during the summer months and it is a big wedding hotel, perfect for weddings and social occasions. We will also focus on the local business community.”
The management company also anticipates increasing customers from the Orthodox Jewish community — in part because the hotel owners are working with developer Jeffrey Fernbach, president of Fernmoor Homes of Jackson, who has ties to that community. Fernbach will be a major new investor in the property over the first three years and is ultimately expected to be involved with the resort’s redevelopment, if restructuring plans receive approval by U.S. District Bankruptcy Judge Michael B. Kaplan.
“We don’t intend to exclude one over the other,” said Williams of the company’s target customer bases. “The goal is to fill the hotel.”
Kaplan will next review the proposed restructuring progress at a hearing in July, about the same time Coakley & Williams finalizes its local organizational structure for the resort.
Coakley & Williams owns and/or operates franchised and independent hotels in 12 states and Washington D.C., and also operates condo hotels and franchise restaurants. “This property will come out smelling like a rose, and there is not one thing for anyone to worry about,” said Williams of the Chapter 11 process.
The Asbury Park Press also reported that Long Branch City Business Administrator Howard H. Woolley Jr. met with the resort’s new General Manager, Brian Czechowski, as part of a meeting of the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce about Oceanfest, the day-long July 4 festival on the city’s waterfront that concludes with fireworks and in which Ocean Place has long played a significant role.
Woolley said he received assurances that Ocean Place, which ranks as the second-largest employer in Long Branch and is among the top five taxpayers in the city (and is current on its property taxes) will continue its support of the event.
“[Ocean Place] is a tremendous economic engine,” said Woolley of the resort. “It is hugely significant. To see that place grow and flourish is central to the city’s redevelopment.”
Michael Nerlinger, Senior Vice President of Operations for Coakley & Williams, said the full state of redevelopment plans will take years to finalize and will not be as ambitious as an older, abandoned plan that provided for a bowling alley and movie theater, among other uses. “It won’t be the same plans, but it will be a multi-use development that will be an asset to the community and it will complement the development already taking place” Nerlinger said.
“The property has significant opportunity for expansion and development on the land,” added Williams, noting that Ocean Place has 254 guest rooms and suites, 40,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, and a full spa.
Ocean Place employs up to 300 people during peak demand seasons and Czechowski is in the process of hiring about 145 seasonal employees, some from within the community, it was reported, with those positions to be filled in the next 30 days.
“This property is open for business and is not going anywhere,” said Williams.