Seaside Heights took the first formal step in condemning an never-completed nightclub complex that has been rusting on the Boulevard for over a decade.
The “eyesore,” as it has been referred to by both officials and local residents, is owned by Vincent Craparotta, who was not present at a meeting of the borough council Wednesday night. Craparotta owns and operates the nearby Hemingway’s Cafe, and at one time had planned to build a supersized pool bar, nightclub and restaurant complex between Hamilton and Webster avenues, but the 2008 financial crisis and a lack of financing after Superstorm Sandy halted construction. The hulking superstructure of the building has rusted away ever since, as permits were extended via state laws passed in the wake of both events. They recently expired, and the borough council and planning board formally declared the lots that make up the complex as an area in need of redevelopment. After failing to submit a plan with proven financing to redevelop the lot, the borough voted to use the power of eminent domain to take it Wednesday.
The action Wednesday represents a first step in the taking of the building. Eminent domain is applied by ordinance, which requires a second vote and public hearing before passage. That is expected to take place Nov. 7 in order for officials to provide Craparotta one last, and legally-required, chance to develop the plot on his own.
“Our attorney has been conversing with the owner’s attorney,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “It’s ongoing, but it doesn’t look like it’s going places. Still, it’s one of the reasons why we spaced out the hearing until November rather than doing it at the next council meeting.”
If the borough does, indeed, take the property, which is divided into three subdivided parcels, the town would be obligated under the law to compensate Craparotta for its value. The borough would then seek developers with proven financial backing to purchase the land and build on it. Seaside Heights officials successfully implemented the same process to take the crime-plagued Travel Inn motel, which was razed and redeveloped by Walters Group into an ultra-modern age-restricted apartment complex.
Seaside Heights recently received the final copy of a consulting firm’s plan to redevelop the entire Boulevard business district, and officials have hinted that they prefer mixed-use development for available parcels along the main artery in town.
One thing is sure, officials say: the steel structure is not long for Seaside Heights.
“The clock is ticking,” said Vaz. “We’ll be prepared for November 4, so if it’s not resolved by then, it’s game over.”