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Long Branch hotel undergoing $18 million renovation

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It suffered minimal damage during Hurricane Sandy, but the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch is undergoing an $18 million renovation to its property, according to General Manager Jerry Broz.

“It will appeal to the higher-income traveler from North Jersey and Manhattan,” Broz said.

United Capital purchased the hotel in March 2012. The roof, balconies and exterior of the 12-story building have been updated. Two floors of guest rooms have been gutted and completely renovated with new bathrooms, carpet, furniture and flat-screen televisions. Two more floors are expected to be finished by Memorial Day. After that, the work will be put on hold until after the summer season. All of the 256 rooms will be ready for Memorial Day 2014, including a meeting room overlooking the ocean that will be turned into a three-bedroom bridal suite with a large balcony.

The Ocean Place Resort and Spa was built in 1990.

“Hotel rooms really need a facelift every 5-7 years,” said Broz.

Renovations to the hotel’s wedding and corporate facilities will extend the hotel’s season to eight or nine months, giving seasonal employees a longer work year. It is expected to bring in more corporate business in the off-season from December through March as well.

“We hire about 150 seasonal employees from May to October,” Broz said. “We will have the ability to employ local people almost year-round. It’s a huge help because we won’t have to hire new people and retrain them every year.”

Once the work is complete, Broz also expects to hire about 50 new hourly housekeeping, kitchen and dining employees, and has brought on Executive Chef Barry Walling, a Keansburg native who has worked in South Beach, Isla Morada and Atlanta.

Come fall, the spa will double in size and will lead to an outdoor pool with cabana service for adults only. There will also be a children’s area with a pool and game room with billiards. The popular outdoor Tiki bar will triple in size and all the restaurants and lounges will be completely overhauled.

The Ocean Place Resort and Spa survived Hurricane Sandy with very little damage because it was built on a bluff, Broz said. Because of this, FEMA was able to use the hotel to house displaced residents for several months after the storm.

“We were very fortunate,” Broz said. “Our basement is 15-feet above sea level so we had no flooding. I grew up in Florida and I’ve managed resorts there through a few hurricanes. This is a very solid hotel.”

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