It is always refreshing, that moment of clarity. The National Park Service, perennially starved of money, is looking for private partners to help restore some Jersey Shore architectural gems.

Sandy Hook, a spit of land in extreme northeastern Monmouth County between the Atlantic Ocean and Sandy Hook Bay, was known as Fort Hancock and served as military base for many years. With a history that includes pirate lore, World War II era “disappearing” guns and Nike nuclear missiles, the Fort was decommissioned in 1974 and Sandy Hook became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

While some public (Coast Guard) and quasi-public (New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium) users have occupied parts of Sandy Hook for some time, many of the buildings have been left to decay.

Perhaps the most dramatic and visible example is Officer’s Row, a group of single family homes originally occupied by, you guessed it, military officers and their families. Two of these buildings were converted to office use and have been occupied at various times by the Audubon Society, the American Littoral Society and Clean Ocean Action. The really cool thing about these houses is that they face almost due west over the Sandy Hook Bay, so they receive the rarest of Jersey Shore gifts – sunset views!

A proposal to develop the entire site stalled due to economic and political pressures, but the National Park Service, to its enormous credit, is back trying to make a deal (or deals) happen.

The deal: lease one or more of the homes for up to 60 years. Rents may potentially be lower than “mainland” market, because the property is not subject to real estate taxes. Spend the money to renovate the property and get a credit against the rent.

The catch – National Preservation rules are Nurse Diesel strict. For example, windows must be replaced with exact duplicates: single pane glass, weighted sash chains, the works. Not cheap. Or easy.

Let’s make up some numbers (full disclosure, I am totally making this up, I have no idea what the real costs are or what the National Park Service would be willing to accept). Let’s say the rent is $1,500 per month or $1,080,000 over a 60 year term, and the renovations will cost $300,000.  The rent could potentially be free for 16 years or reduced by $416 per month over the lease term. Regardless, it would be difficult to duplicate a deal like this anywhere else on the Jersey Shore. And you would have a sweet summer pad to share with your grandchildren.

Kudos to the National Park Service, and let’s hope this win-win project comes together soon.

Another Day in Paradise