A group of Asbury Park entrepreneurs who plan to launch a hip restaurant district in Burlington City are also buying homes there. Some of them are relocating - the group's architect, a head chef at one of their bustling eateries at the Jersey Shore, and a project manager. Future plans call for a culinary school or test kitchen in the Delaware River community.
The group, which simply calls itself Smith, owns and operates six trendy restaurants, mostly in Asbury Park, known as the place where Bruce Springsteen got his start and now as a popular destination. Smith also has plans to open two other restaurants in that area over the next six months. After that, it hopes to open three to four restaurants in Burlington City, now a depressed community with many vacant storefronts and several boarded-up homes.
The group sees Burlington as ripe for revitalization and wants to tap into its scenic waterfront and rich colonial history.
So far, Smith has purchased three Burlington buildings - including a fire hall with a historic clocktower - to convert into restaurants. But the principals in the group have also bought seven houses.