After a fire in the West End section of Long Branch decimated several residential and commercial buildings, the question is what will be the future of property both for residents and visitors?

The fire leaves about a dozen people homeless and damaged or destroyed ten businesses all along Brighton and Ocean Avenue, only feet from the water. While investigators and insurance companies work to figure out the cause of the fire and pay out appropriate damage claims, there is already concern about what will happen to the West End and specifically the property on Brighton Avenue.

Dr. Donald Moliver, Dean at Monmouth Universities Kislak Real Estate Institute believes that though it might not happen quick, he doesn’t think there will be a shortage of interest in the property.  He says that the property is in a high traffic and economically established location which makes it incredibly attractive to developers, even after the tragic fire.

“That’s the West End section, that’s generally speaking I don’t want to say “recession proof” but it has always been a viable area.” Says Moliver.

However one thing that Moliver does warn of is after the loss of several businesses in a renovated area, the township might face some short term issues in terms of ratable.

“What’s going to happen is the economic base in that area has eroded, which means the municipality won’t be able to collected as much taxes on that area because the improvements have been largely destroyed.” Advises Moliver.

He says for that reason it’s beneficial for everything to move as quickly as possible. Noting that “it’s in everyone’s interest” for new residents to arrive,  “for people to get back to the area, for employees who are counting on working g in some of those businesses, and of course for the property owners themselves.”

However even with the damage the fire caused and the possibility of insurance dragging their feet, it’s still not enough for Moliver to doubt the area’s attractiveness. He says if there is a hypothetical situation where tenants or owners are waiting on a payment from an insurance company, there’s no reason “other developers with cash or availability of funds will not come to the table and be willing to take out existing ownership and partner with them.”

He says once an area is deemed attractive, it is difficult for natural disasters like this to deflect away from its appeal. However he notes likewise if an area is struggling, empty property could be viewed as a detrimental thing.

The one thing that will be a deciding factor is how the towns officials decide to plan for the new property. The previous buildings were mixed use, meaning used for both residential and commercial applications. He says it could be a purely commercial development, a purely residential structure, another mix used application, or even something to address parking concerns.

Either way, Moliver says “I’m optimistic for that area again it’s devastating what happened but I don’t think the area will remain fallow for too long.”

The devastating five alarm fire has been compared by firefighters and residents to the Pier Blaze of 1987 which completely destroyed the Long Branch Pier Amusement Park.  The leveled territory once occupied by the popular amusement park was vacant for many years until the Pier Village mixed use complex was announced.

Moliver says unlike the original pier we he called a “blight”, the West End area is already a popular attraction which could attract similar big ticket development, only much sooner.