The next-step in Seaside Heights officials’ quest to revive the borough as a family-oriented resort community will focus on redeveloping the Boulevard.
Home to numerous nightclubs and a hulking, uncompleted construction project, the borough’s main commercial thoroughfare has seen better days. Some storefronts are vacant, and other are in disrepair. As the borough transitions from the backdrop of MTV shows to a more traditional beach community, officials want to focus their efforts on improving the Boulevard and helping it thrive in the absence of what was previously thought of as a nightclub and bar mecca.
Last week, the borough council voted to appoint the firm of Phillips, Preiss Grygiel, of Hoboken, as a redevelopment planner. The company has previously developed the downtown revitalization program in Hightstown, similar plans in Montclair and Roosevelt Island, N.Y., and has represented iStar, the major redeveloper in Asbury Park.
“They are going to be the guiding force, telling us how to do it, how to get it done,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
The vision this time is different than in the past, when the borough has tried to lure ultra high-end businesses with the hopes of becoming similar to Red Bank or Hoboken.
“We need to go back to the basics,” said Vaz. “Part of the problem is that we’ve had all of these visioning studies, and Seaside has always thought of trying to be something it’s not. We want to try to be what we really are – a beach community with flip flops, tee shirts and shorts, ice cream, pizza and rides.”
“We’d love to have 26-year-olds who are working on Wall Street, but we know we don’t have the public transportation here,” he said.
Some redevelopment has already started. The council approved a redevelopment plan for the troubled former Village Inn (Travelodge) motel on Bay Boulevard, which will be developed as a senior apartment building by Walters Group.
The plan will be to lure new businesses, including restaurants, to the Boulevard and redevelop it in a way that captures the Shore-oriented landscape. The borough interviewed two redevelopment consulting firms and came away happy with what they heard – specifically, that the infrastructure is in place for positive change.
“They read the newspapers, and they know that Seaside is trying to pull itself together,” said Vaz. “When they came down the Boulevard, they had the visual to go along with what they read.”