The Seaside Heights borough council on Wednesday voted unanimously to issue $2 million in bonds to fund the condemnation and demolition of the infamous “steel structure” on the Boulevard between Hamilton and Webster avenues.
The borough council previously introduced an ordinance authorizing the taking of the property, which is owned by Vincent Craparotta, the proprietor of the nearby Hemingway’s Cafe. Craparotta long sought to build an entertainment complex including a nightclub, pool and restaurants at the site, but financing never materialized. He later proposed residential development, but questions over financing required under state redevelopment statutes halted that effort. Craparotta utilized laws passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Superstorm Sandy to keep the hulking superstructure of the building standing through the extension of permits that otherwise would have expired years ago. The two permit-extension programs have now both expired.
The property has been formally declared an area in need of redevelopment by the borough council and planning board, which paves the way for condemnation. But the borough is required to negotiate with the property owner first to see if he can develop a plan, including solid financial backing, to redevelop the property.
“We are in negotiations to see if it can be worked out,” said Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani.
The second reading of the ordinance, which would immediately transfer ownership of the property to the borough, is set for Nov. 4.
Mayor Anthony Vaz said the $2 million authorization takes into account the value of the property and the cost of removing the rusting steel structure.
“If we buy it, we will immediately go and put it up for sale to a redeveloper,” said Vaz.
Whoever purchases the property would be responsible for developing it in line with the types of properties envisioned for the Boulevard redevelopment area, such as mixed use, restaurants or retail. That developer will also need to present financing guarantees and obtain planning board approval before construction can begin.
Seaside Heights last used eminent domain to take and tear down the former Village Inn property on Hamilton Avenue. The motel, plagued with crime and drugs for years, was replaced with a modern senior citizen apartment complex.