By JOHN T. WARD
In what may be a record-setting transaction for the borough, OceanFirst Financial paid $42.5 million in late October to buy the Red Bank headquarters of homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises, redbankgreen has learned.
Borough tax assessor Mitch Elias said via email that the transaction “is the largest I could find” in records that go back to 1995. Jennifer Collins, an assistant to Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon, said the office was “not able to provide response” to whether the sale was the largest in town history, or its ranking among transactions countywide.
Elias noted that a sale of a 55-percent interest in the West Side Lofts apartments, at 1 Bridge Avenue, was closed in February for $24.4 million. That would equate to a full value of $44.4 million.
The OceanFirst purchase of the gleaming glass-and-brick structure, with sweeping views of the Navesink River, generated close to $1.1 million in fees and transfer taxes for Monmouth County, according to figures supplied by Collins. None of that money is shared with the borough, however.
Assessed at $16.5 million, the building is slated to generate nearly $364,000 in property taxes this year, according to borough records. The majority of that sum will go to the county, as well as to schools; the borough and its library would retain $98,000, tax collector Ashlesha Deshplande said in September.
Hovnanian, a national homebuilding company, is still occupying the space while its new home, in Old Bridge, is being readied, Jill Hewitt, OceanFirst’s investor relations director, told redbankgreen Thursday.
OceanFirst, a bank holding company, plans to use the 65,200-square-foot building, at West Front Street and Maple Avenue, as a second headquarters, she said. The current headquarters in Toms River, which is “busting at the seams,” will continue as the primary home, she said.
“We’re calling Red Bank ‘HQ II,'” she said.
At just a decade old, 110 West Front requires only cosmetic work inside, Hewitt said. The purchase price included all the furnishings and fixtures, she said. “It’s a spectacular building,” she said.
OceanFirst expects to take occupancy in the first half of 2018, relocating an initial group of 120 t0 150 executives, with more coming later, she said.
The deal, first reported in September by redbankgreen, came to light shortly before the Hovnanian reported a net loss of $337 million in its latest fiscal quarter. At the time, Hovnanian CEO Ara Hovnanian said the building sale would generate “several million dollars of profit” and give the company more than $25 million to invest in its national homebuilding operations, he said.
OceanFirst also has a bank branch at 73 Broad Street.
Hovnanian also owns property on the northeast corner of West Front Street and Maple Avenue, which as reported this week, is in contract for sale; and a gravel parking lot on Boat Club Way.