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ASBURY PARK, NJ-Less than three weeks ago, city manager Terrance Weldon completed negotiations with Asbury Partners on a deal under which the latter would be the lead developer for a $1.2 billion oceanfront makeover for this bedraggled city. Then, he promptly resigned, saying he would plead guilty to federal bribery and extortion charges.

While the charges were related to Weldon’s activities as mayor of nearby Ocean Twp., they quickly cast a shadow over the pending redevelopment deal here. Last night, the city council put an end to any doubts and put the proposed project on a fast track by approving the deal with Asbury Partners. The latter consists of Sass Municipal Finance Partners of New York and Ocean Front Acquisitions of Lakewood, NJ.

“The further delay this project would be ridiculous,” Asbury Park Mayor Kevin Sanders said last night at the public hearing that preceded the vote. “Anything can go wrong if you take a negative view of things, but whatever happens has to be better than what’s happened in the past here.”

The first phase of the project is expected to move ahead quickly. Its three components, all residential complexes, are slated for sites within the 56-acre redevelopment zone that are already owned by Asbury Partners. The latter will hire separate sub-developers for each phase of the overall project and will act as the supervising developer. Build-out, which is expected to take up to 15 years, will total some 3,000 residential units, a major retail component, entertainment venues and a new hotel.

The agreement also calls for Asbury Partners to acquire several city-owned buildings along the oceanfront boardwalk and to begin rebuilding the boardwalk within the next year. Acquisition of the city-owned pavilions is expected to be a done deal by the end of the month, with a $3.5 million price tag being floated. Asbury Partners says it has already spent some $20 million on the overall project.

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