The Seaside Heights borough council this week named local real estate development firm Walters Group as the redeveloper of the former Travelodge site on Bay Boulevard.
The motel, now known as the Travel Inn, will be acquired either through negotiations or eminent domain, said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
“There is still time for everybody to negotiate, but because of the timeline the developer is under, we have to proceed as if we’re going to do it by eminent domain,” Vaz said.
If a deal is not struck between Walters Group and the motel’s owner, the borough would acquire the property by way of eminent domain and then re-sell it to the company. The time constraints have to do with public funding the company would receive toward the project through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The “application race,” Vaz said, means the funding should be sought by mid-November.
Walters Group, in addition to its business constructing new homes, also manages numerous affordable housing complexes in Ocean County. The Seaside Heights project would consist of apartment that will be both age-restricted for senior citizens and income-restricted, likely to those earning $60,000 or less per year, said Mayor Anthony Vaz.
Walters Group currently manages a large affordable housing apartment complex in Manahawkin off Route 72 and was recently chosen by Lacey Township as the redeveloper of a plot of land there where over 100 affordable units will be developed. Lacey Mayor Gary Quinn said last month when the project there was approved, that Walters was the best option for such a project, in terms of the quality of tenants.
“The best we’ve found is Walters Homes, because they’re on top of the applicants who live there 24/7,” Quinn said.
Seaside Heights residents will have the first opportunity to move in, followed by Ocean County residents and then the general public.
Located on Bay Boulevard near the intersection with Hamilton Avenue, the motel has seen better days. Last year, the motel was operating under the Travelodge brand and was referenced in a widely-circulated Star-Ledger newspaper article that identified it as being one of the borough’s motels in which at least one sex offender was being housed as part of a county-run housing program for the homeless. The article quoted the offender as saying he was employed as the motel’s night watchman. Shortly after the article, the Wyndham Hotel Group – owner of the Travelodge brand – ended the location’s franchise agreement.