Legendary rock club the Stone Pony, a venue frequented by such New Jersey luminaries as Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, will soon amount to a pile of rubble if condo developers have their way.
The Asbury Park institution — which has hosted performances ranging from the Kinks and Patti Smith to Green Day and Hole — has been designated for demolition by Ocean Front Acquisitions in order to build a string of condominiums in its place. The firm intends to submit master redevelopment plans to the city for approval on January 23, and construction could begin as early as the end of March, Larry Fishman of Ocean Front Acquisitions said.
“The Stone Pony is an invaluable asset and piece of history to Asbury Park and all of New Jersey,” E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren and his wife, Amy, wrote in a letter to the Asbury Park City Council. “Its location is critical, and it should not be moved or closed under any circumstances! We implore you to grant the Stone Pony whatever historic status it needs to guarantee it remains a permanent part of whatever restoration and growth takes place in Asbury Park.”
While plans to raze the music landmark will bring tears to the eyes of the nostalgic, doing so may be the first step in resuscitating a sagging economy. Asbury Park was a popular vacation destination on the Jersey shore for more than 125 years but since the early ’80s has been struggling financially. Hometown hero Bruce Springsteen’s “My City of Ruins,” which he performed on the “America: A Tribute to Heroes” telethon in September, was penned to illustrate Asbury Park’s plight and was later applied to New York after September’s terrorist attacks (see “Mariah Carey, Springsteen, Other Stars Sing For America On Telethon” ).
Ocean Front Acquisitions believes that the string of luxury homes would breathe new economic life into the former hotspot, Fishman said. Its idea is to move commercial businesses, of which the Stone Pony is one of only a few remaining in the area, to a strip on Ocean Avenue, which runs parallel to the shoreline. On perpendicular streets, such as Second Avenue, where it currently resides, would be the condos.
The Save the Stone Pony activist organization, which agrees that a redevelopment plan is needed, is lobbying for the city council to reject the firm’s proposal. One hundred people — including Vini Lopez, a former drummer for Springsteen’s E Street Band, as well as other local musicians — gathered for a rally Thursday at the club, and another will be held Wednesday, following a city council meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for January 19.
More information and an online petition supporting Save the Stone Pony’s objective are available at www.savethestonepony.com.