|By Nancy Shields, Asbury Park Press,
N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Feb. 28, 2007 - ASBURY PARK -- New York real estate investors Joseph and Jacob Chetrit bought the Berkeley-Carteret Oceanfront Hotel on Tuesday, paying $16 million for the historic 248-room building on the city's waterfront, the broker who handled the sale said.
Patricia Kobble said she represented both the buyers and sellers -- Daniel and Ike Ahn -- in the deal. She said the Chetrit brothers want to get the hotel -- closed since late last fall -- refurbished, restored and reopened as soon as possible, although she did not know if they could do it by Memorial Day.
"They've ordered everything -- I saw the wallpaper, the furniture -- they're ready," Kobble said. "As fast as they can get it done, that's as fast as they will open."
The brothers' company, the Chetrit Group, based in New York, has large real estate holdings around the country. Joseph Chetrit headed a joint venture of partners who bought the Sears Tower in Chicago for $840 million in 2004.
Kobble said she saw Joseph Chetrit's interest in the Berkeley-Carteret, built in 1925, as a natural.
"He's in the hotel business and he likes beachfront hotels -- that's what his specialty is," she said.
"If true, that's a big boost for the waterfront redevelopment and the city," Deputy Mayor James Bruno said. "I'm hoping they can work together with Madison Marquette and Asbury Partners to bring the north side of Convention Hall, the boardwalk area, back to life. It looks like everything's falling into place."
The new owners are working on a plan to buy additional property to provide parking at the hotel, said Kobble, who handled the sale working for Prudential but said she has just switched to Portfolio, a small agency in Lakewood specializing in large commercial sales.
Joseph and Jacob Chetrit could not be reached for comment. Nor could the sellers, Daniel Ahn and his son, Ike Ahn.
Daniel Ahn, a Queens-based entrepreneur, bought the hotel in December 1998 for $5.1 million plus $181,000 owed in back taxes. Ahn and his family refurbished the Berkeley-Carteret and kept it open through the years that the city's waterfront plans were being created, approved and financed.
"With this sale going through, and a commitment from the new owners to get the hotel back on line for this summer, we're going to have work under way all along the beachfront," City Manager Terence Reidy said Tuesday.
He said that Metro Homes plans to open a new sales office in the Fourth Avenue Pavilion to sell condos in the 224-unit Esperanza high rise. And Madison Marquette, the national retail developer is working to open a new restaurant in the vacant Howard Johnson's by Memorial Day.
Reidy said the Berkeley-Carteret sale comes a week after Madison Marquette signed a deal with developers Asbury Partners to lead the development of the entertainment and retail sectors of the waterfront project. Madison Marquette has said their work over the next five years will be a $150 million to $200 million investment.
"This announcement today, coupled with Madison Marquette a week ago is huge," Reidy said. "Absolutely huge. Once again, despite what people are saying about the real estate market, it shows confidence in the city of Asbury Park and the future of our city."
Ahn had bought the hotel from the Maharishi Maheshi Yogi, whose organization bought it in 1994 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for $1.85 million, of which $625,000 was for the hotel and the remainder for back taxes and liens. At that time, the property was assessed at $3 million.
The maharishi planned to use the hotel as a Transcendental Meditation university and holistic health care center. The city did not allow those uses. The maharishi had to maintain the hotel's primary use as a hotel.
The owners in the mid-1980s were a group led by local businessmen Henry and Sebastian Vaccaro, who restored the hotel but ended up in bankruptcy.
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