A group of undisclosed buyers has made an offer for the historic T. Thomas Fortune house on Drs. Parker Boulevard, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

A contract has yet to be signed by the sellers, the paper reports. But the prospect of a sale has mobilized historic preservationists in recent months. They fear that the next owner of the property, home nearly a century ago to one of America’s most prominent African-American journalists, will tear it down for redevelopment.

Commercial real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, tells the Press that the prospective buyers are sensitive to the historical importance of the site.

“The house is a grand old structure. It would behoove everyone to see it maintained, and that is the intent of all parties,” Brothers said. “It will require some cooperative effort from the borough and contract purchaser.”

The price of the property is $1.5 million.

Brothers declined to identify the contract purchasers, except to say they are a “local group of well-respected investors with a track record of good development.”

One proposal is to build affordable housing on the land, he said.

The property is owned by James Vaccarelli of Shrewsbury and relatives. The Vaccarellis operated an Italian bread bakery from the property for nearly eight decades.

According to George Bowden, chairman of the borough Historical Preservation Commission, the house is a Second Empire-style structure built between 1873 and 1880.

In May, Preservation New Jersey named the property one of the state’s 10 most-endanged historic sites. But that designation has no legal weight, and a buyer would be able to tear down the house if he or she desired, Bowden and other preservationists say.

Mayor Pasquale Menna tells the Press that there has been constructive dialogue among all the interested parties in seeing the house preserved and reused.

“For the time being, it is safe from demolition,” he said. “What we’re discussing is what options to work out for preservation and for the property owner.”

Email this story