The oceanfront plot of land on which a grand museum has been proposed to hold the historic carousel which Seaside Heights acquired in a land swap with Casino Pier will spend the 2018 summer season as a parking lot, but plans are in works to meet deadlines to bring the carousel back to life.
The borough council this week awarded a one-year contract to Pete’s Boardwalk Empire to operate a parking lot at the plot, located on Ocean Terrace between Sampson and Carter Avenues. That same plot of land was conveyed to the borough as part of a land swap deal in which the town took possession of the valuable carousel in exchange for allowing Casino Pier to build space for more rides on top of what was once a municipal beach.
The idea, officials say, is to create a boardwalk museum that will house the carousel – which will be working, and open to the public – and potentially include in the design a banquet facility or some other type of use that could generate revenue that would cover the building’s upkeep. A rendering of such a building was released in 2015. But with Seaside Heights struggling financially in the absence of $200 million in ratables that have not returned since Superstorm Sandy, the plans may have to be scaled back. Officials are hoping to obtain grant funding for whatever eventually gets built to house the 1910 Dentzel-Looff carousel, which has been operating in town since 1932.
“A year has gone by since [the land swap] approval happened and in the mean time we’ve hired a grant consultant, and that is their primary focus,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz.
A new rendering is currently be prepared.
“We have a rendering of something more grand, which would be very expensive, but we just can’t do this right now,” said Vaz.
The borough faces a three-year deadline from approval to begin construction on a building to house the carousel. Casino Pier has agreed to keep the carousel in its building and eventually dismantle it and reassemble it up the boardwalk. In approving the land swap, the state required the carousel be housed in a building on the plot of land that was exchanged.
Funding has become the major issue since the approval was granted in 2016.
“We’re going to attempt to get the grant money, and then look at sponsorships or leasing,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “This is just the thought process now.”
Christopher Vaz, the borough administrator, said as long as “shovels are in the ground” within three years, there may be an opportunity to negotiate an extension on the deadline.
Borough officials are also considering starting a nonprofit entity that could accept donations and receive grants that will specifically be dedicated toward the museum and carousel building. Ultimately, however, the desire is for the facility to be self-sustaining.
“The borough, ideally, would like to have whatever structure that houses the carousel be able to generate revenue,” said Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani. “The idea is to have the carousel be operational and the fees to use it keep it operational.”