UPDATE MARCH 23, 2021, 3PM CST: The auction for Clementon Park has ended. The park was sold to a single bidder for $2.37 million. Unfortunately, Fresh Development LLC was not the successful bidder. At this time, the identity of the new owner is not public.
UPDATE MARCH 23, 2021, 11AM CST: The auction for Clementon Park has begun. A single bidder has bid $2.37m for the entire park. At this point the identity of the bidder is unknown, although it appears that there was only one registered bidder for the entire property. Now the 200+ individual lots are being auctioned off individually. If the total value of all those auctioned items exceeds the bulk bid of $2.37m then the park will be sold piecemeal. If the total is less than the bulk bid, the park’s receiver is likely to accept the bulk bid and the park will be sold as one entire lot.
Melvin Brown Jr. founded Fresh Development LLC to help make investment opportunities more accessible for everyone. “Through acquiring new properties and assets we strongly believe we can help close the wealth gap in America,” he says.
Fresh Development is currently focused on purchasing Clementon Park in New Jersey, which is being auctioned off on March 23, 2021. For Brown, the park represents much more than just an investment opportunity. He worked at the park in the early 2000s and has long been a roller coaster enthusiast. If successful, he and other investors will have the opportunity to breathe new life into the 114-year-old park, which has been closed since 2019. IPM asked Brown about Fresh Development’s plans for the property.
Tell us how you went from working at the park to bidding to own it.
I worked as a ride operator at the park when I was about 16 years old – it was one of my first jobs as a teenager. I loved being on the log flume and getting a full view of the park. I used to imagine what I would do if I owned the park. At that time, I wanted to design roller coasters and went to school for building construction technology. But my career path took a different turn and I ended up working in the tech sector, even partnering with the Obama administration on the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Startup Initiative in 2013, which helped build a pipeline for minority students to access higher education and the business world.
Now I’m in a position to be able to manifest my original plans and dreams. We have this prime opportunity and a great team of people on board to help make it happen.
What are your plans for the park if your bid is successful?
We have big plans! Our main goal is to bring more high-quality services to the park and turn it into a full weekend destination, rather than just a day-trip park. Eventually we want to offer year-round operation.
Since the lake covers a large part of the property we want to focus on making the best use of the water as possible. We’d like to add paddleboat bars, drone racing on the lake, and other water-based activities to the mix.
The industry trend is for parks to have accommodations so we also want to add that into our plan. We’d like to add a music venue to the property and bring all of the park’s services, like ticketing and food sales, onto a digital platform.
As far as current attractions are concerned, we have a final inspection with engineers and contractors soon and we realize that some of the rides may not be in great condition after being closed for nearly two years. Our focus will be to get the waterpark open by the summer and then reopen other attractions as soon as possible.
The key to all of this is reinvesting in the property over time. Parks need to give guests reasons to keep coming back. That starts with the services they receive at the park and continues with investing in new experiences regularly.
How is your financing coming along?
We are well on our way. After our final inspection we will have a better idea of what the property needs and be able to update our financial projections. Our plan is to have $7 million available for investment, which we believe would cover the acquisition costs and initial repairs.
Do you plan to operate the park differently?
I’m a data guy and have a background in technology, so I want to integrate tech into all elements of the operation and then take the data provided and use it to operate more efficiently.
Our goal is to elevate the customer experience. In the past, Clementon Park was perceived to be more of a discount experience. We don’t want to go in that direction, we want to create reasons for the customer to stay longer.
Do you have partners secured for updating and operating the park?
We have been in contact with the park’s general manager and security team and plan to continue working with them. Fresh Development will provide creative vision for the park but we will also be looking to hire the best people and partners to work on the property. There will be a learning curve, but we think it’s a great opportunity.
Are you concerned about the pandemic?
We plan to open safely at a limited capacity. I think people are ready to get out of the house and want to get back to entertainment. We already see that trend with restaurants, so we want to make sure we can be open this year and take advantage of that pent-up demand. By focusing on quality and ensuring people are satisfied with their experience here, we will capitalize on that initial expected surge and turn people into lifelong customers.
Are you optimistic for a successful bid?
I strongly believe we will be able to acquire the park; door after door has been opening for us. We have a great team behind the bid and I think our fresh ideas, creative thinking and data-driven focus will allow us to do justice to Clementon Park and ensure that it is around for another hundred years to come.