The Seaside Heights borough council on Wednesday unanimously voted to award a $2,597,000 to a construction firm to immediately begin work on a planned building which will hold a historic carousel and serve as a museum and meeting place.
The building will stand on the currently-vacant lot that spans the entire block between Carteret and Sampson avenues on the boardwalk. The project will be undertaken by construction firm Epic Management, which is also responsible for building the $75 million RWJBarnabas Athletic Health Performance Center in Piscataway and the School of Communication building at Montclair State University.
The main attraction of the building will be the historic Dentzel-Looff carousel, which dates back to 1910. The borough took possession of the artful attraction in 2016 from its previous owner, Casino Pier, in a swap that provided the town with the carousel and large plot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in exchange for a swath of beachfront where Casino Pier could expand without building over the ocean.
New Jersey’s Green Acres fund has provided $750,000 in grant funding toward the project. The borough approved bond funding for the construction of the building, which will also include a museum and community meeting space, earlier this year. Epic was selected as the lowest qualified bidder on the project after nine bids were received, and the contract was awarded during the borough’s first in-person council meeting in months on Wednesday after town hall was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The appropriation has been there, and as we’ve been coming out of the quarantine, we put off non-essential business,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “Now that we had our first public meeting, we picked this to coincide with tonight.”
Vaz estimated the borough will be responsible for about $1.8 million in construction costs, though fundraising is continuing through the newly-formed Seaside Heights Historical Society. There is also a chance space in the building could be leased for events, officials have said.
Construction on the building will begin immediately.
“We’re going to issue a Notice to Proceed [Thursday],” said Vaz. “Epic is a very large company with a lot of resources, and we’re hoping to get the pilings in the ground by the end of this month.”
The carousel itself, which will operate as a working attraction as it has for over a century, is in the process of being restored by experts in the field of historical amusement restoration. Pieces of the carousel are currently in secured storage, and the borough still must solicit bids for some portions of the final rehabilitation.
“The band organ is done,” said Vaz. “We have to pick it up from Pennsylvania, and we’re presently working to come up with bid [specifications] for the other work to get done. It will be shipped out and that will be taken care of.”