A rendering of South Beach at Long Branch — Courtesy: FEM Real Estate
By Joshua Burd
Mimi Feliciano recalls spending the early part of her college years in Miami — and how it wasn’t long before she fell in love with everything from the architecture to the lifestyle.
It’s one reason why she and her firm, FEM Real Estate, have grand designs of bringing a taste of South Beach to her home state of New Jersey. Last fall, the Montville-based developer started preconstruction in Long Branch on a planned 47-unit, oceanfront luxury condominium complex that will both emulate the style of Miami and create a new destination at the Jersey Shore.
“I’m a Jersey girl — and I’m busy with my business up here — but I love the idea of introducing some of that,” said Feliciano, co-founder and CEO. “It brings fond memories from my college days.”
The aptly named South Beach at Long Branch is more than a year away from opening, but it has already helped fuel new momentum in one of the city’s key redevelopment zones. Some two weeks after a ceremonial groundbreaking last summer, city officials approved two projects that called for razing existing buildings and replacing them with high-end condominimums along Ocean Avenue.
With FEM’s site as the southernmost anchor, such projects are expected to help revitalize more than 15 acres of beachfront in the city that runs up to the popular Pier Village complex.
“We’re taking the chance of first risk … and there seems to be a lot of interest in our project, so it’s creating confidence for that area, both for the political people and other developers,” Feliciano said. “It will be quite a boon to the town because of the jobs it’s going to create, and as these redevelopment zones go, that was the idea — to get some stimulation.”
The development has taken several key steps forward recently, including the hiring of B. Harvey Construction to help oversee preconstruction work at the site. FEM also has assembled a design and development team that includes Pinnacle Cos. and Shore Point Architecture, along with a well-known interior designer based in the Miami area.
But the 1.7-acre project, which is slated for Ocean and North Bath avenues, is several years in the making. Feliciano traces its origins all the way back to when she and her family were introduced to Long Branch around 2009 and subsequently bought a townhouse in the city.
The concept of actually building there was born a few years later, Feliciano said, when her son was graduating college and wanted to take on a project down the shore. And while the family had something smaller in mind, a piece of what would become their project site was available and already approved for a four-story, 11-units project.
Ultimately, Feliciano and her husband Edwin decided to go much bigger.
“We started with the idea that we were going take the 11 units and we would make it like a little haven for ourselves — a really beautiful South Beach style with this one preapproved project,” she said. “But it was such an exciting idea that got bigger.”
City officials, who “have been beyond supportive,” encouraged them to go bigger and expand the project’s footprint. All told, it required FEM to assemble about a half-dozen parcels to create the canvas they wanted.
The firm now has plans that call for two eight-story towers connected by a plaza level. Its design includes ocean views with glass exterior walls, some with three-sided panoramas, along with elevators designed to open directly into nearly all of the units and private backyards and garden terraces for some ground-floor residences.
Amenities and common spaces will be focused on hospitality, while paying homage to South Beach. For instance, Feliciano said units will have two to three bedrooms with an optional den, which include kitchenettes and convertible couches to act as a temporary apartment for guests.
“You’ve now got the ability to bring your friends,” she said. “And everybody likes to crash somewhere down the shore, but this is kind of upscale.”
The complex also is slated to include a dining room that could play host to private chefs on weekends, eliminating the need for residents to wait in line at a restaurant.
And FEM is moving ahead with the project with something of a local expert. The firm’s interior designer is the Pompano Beach, Florida-based firm known as Steven G., whose chic, upscale projects are well-known around Miami.
The Felicianos say the firm will provide the kind of authentic look that they simply couldn’t find locally.
“We don’t want to take a plane to Florida,” said Edwin Feliciano, who co-founded FEM. “We just want to go right to South Beach, so rather than go to Florida, we brought South Beach to Long Branch and that was the whole purpose.
“It lends us the opportunity — with his eye — to create that type of feel and style for Long Branch in our building.”