Asbury Park: Community Economies

community-driven Comprehensive economic development


In one-and-a-half square miles, Asbury Park is a unique microcosm of the opportunities and challenges facing New Jersey and the nation. After Hurricane Sandy a new focus on resiliency, as well as renewed development speculation, have set the stage for transformation. Whether this activity will be inclusive for all residents or whether it will reinforce old divisions along racial and class lines, will depend on how the communities of Asbury connect with each other to unlock their shared potential. 

Asbury Park has deep and longstanding divisions in opportunity and wealth, split by a rail track, that began decades ago but still have not been undesigned today. Disinvestment, segregation and riots emptied Springwood Avenue of a strong local economy and music scene that never truly came back. We still face the uneven social structures that seem at times like immovable forces of nature. But they were deliberately created, and can be deliberately undone. With the right process in place, Asbury Park is positioned to be a leader in moving equitably and decisively into the twenty-first century. We need to create a process to co-generate value.

In 2014 designing the We embarked on a collaboration with the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association and the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy. The goal was to uncover and develop community economic development proposals. These proposals became part of the larger Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy submitted to the US Economic Development Administration. 

“In the 70’s, it was cool it was like family. Everybody knew everybody. And in the 80’s pretty much the same until the late 80’s when crack came in. But it was still a tight neighborhood then, everybody stayed tight. And then the 90’s, early 90’s, that’s when the war on drugs happened and people didn’t trust each other.... Now none of the kids know anything about a job around here. So you have stores and stuff, grocery stores, but they just hire their own people. And everybody sticks with their own kind.”
— Asbury Resident