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ASBURY PARK, NJ-It has gotten big play all across the region, and billboards touting it line the Garden State Parkway. But for now, work has been shut down for Esperanza, a 224-unit oceanfront condo project. Developer Metro Homes has halted construction and shuttered the on-site sales office, citing market conditions.

Touted as a key element in this city’s rebirth, Esperanza is part of the 56-acre Oceanfront Asbury redevelopment area. Multiple developers are involved with the zone’s mixed uses, and locally based Asbury Partners is the master developer. Plans for Metro Homes’ two-tower Esperanza were approved in early 2005, and work actually began in mid-2006 with demolition of the long-abandoned steel skeleton of a previous attempt to develop the site.

“We are convinced that the national mortgage crisis now impacting real estate markets around the country represents a temporary setback,” says Dean Geibel, president of the Hoboken-based Metro Homes, in a statement. “We remain fully committed to Asbury Park and its rebirth.”

Metro officials have declined to say how long the delay on the project will last, while indicating that the upscale property may get some design changes. Any substantial changes, however, would toss the project, located between 3rd and 4th avenues on the oceanfront, back into the hands of this city’s planning board for approval.

Officials of Metro Homes also say that a total of 70 of the project’s units are already under contract. With construction halted for now, the down payments for those units will be held in escrow, officials say.

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