Beer garden proposed for lower Broadway

Staff Writer

 This warehouse at Broadway and Second Avenue in Long Branch would be redeveloped as a public beer garden and event space under plans presented to the City Council.  KENNY WALTER/STAFF This warehouse at Broadway and Second Avenue in Long Branch would be redeveloped as a public beer garden and event space under plans presented to the City Council. KENNY WALTER/STAFF The revitalization of lower Broadway took one small step forward last week with the introduction of plans for a public beer garden and event space at the corner of Second Avenue and Broadway in Long Branch.

Preston Casertano, developer of the WhiteChapel Project, presented the City Council with concept plans for the redevelopment of a warehouse at 15-17 Second Ave.

“WhiteChapel will be a unique offering of food, drink and creativity,” Casertano, a Manalapan resident and software developer, said on July 23.

“We are going to have a beer garden with sculpture in it, a beer hall, an actual brewery, entertainment, and event and gallery space. It is truly going to be a unique combination of commercial and art usages.

“WhiteChapel, I think, will become the creative destination, the gateway to Broadway.”

Located in the Broadway Gateway redevelopment zone, the 14,500-square-foot warehouse is owned by Casertano, who said the project name is taken from the East London district with a rich history in literature and popular culture.

The centerpiece of the proposal — a beer hall and brewery — capitalizes on the growing craft-beer trend.

“The highlight, really, of the beer hall is going to be that we are going to brew our own beer and, almost like performance art, the patrons are going to be able to watch the brewing and the bottling of the beer,” he said.

WhiteChapel will include a roof garden where hops and grains for the brewery will be grown. A portion of the grains would also be used for the food served, and a portion will be donated to local farmers to use for fertilizer. Eight to 12 limited-edition craft beers are expected to be brewed onsite. Casertano, who worked in the software field for 30 years, explained the genesis of his proposal.

“My job required a lot of international travel throughout Europe,” he said. “A lot of my downtime there, I’d spend my time in galleries and artistic event spaces.

“A few years ago, I made up my mind that I wanted to try to bring that creative energy here to the Jersey Shore.”

According to Casertano, beer gardens have increased in popularity in recent years and are new to the Shore area.

Casertano said he already has an awardwinning chef on board to prepare a menu of organic and seasonal foods for the restaurant included in the WhiteChapel plans.

The back end of the warehouse will be converted into an event space that could accommodate 125 people. Casertano said the event space would host weekly yoga and meditation classes, a pop-up cinema for arthouse movies and a pop-up restaurant.

The pop-up restaurant would provide a space where local and nationally known chefs could operate a temporary restaurant for short periods to develop new dishes for the menus at their restaurants.

According to the presentation, the existing outdoor courtyard space will serve as a “town square” and could host book signings, a farmers market, antique fairs and weddings.

City Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. said Casertano met with City Planner Pratap Talwar about the project, and that Talwar has signed off on it.

The beer garden is the second major proposal for lower Broadway. In June, the council approved a conceptual design for a CVS pharmacy to be built on the tract of land known as the Fuchsia Triangle, at the foot of lower Broadway.

Casertano said he purchased his property a few years ago. He noted that eminent domain was not used to acquire the property.