After more than a decade aging in a deteriorated state, the rusting “steel structure” on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights is finally under municipal control and officials are planning a rapid demolition to prepare for new construction.
The borough undertook a years-long process of declaring the parcel of land between Hamilton and Webster avenues owned by local restaurant owner Vincent Craparotta as an area in need of redevelopment after more than 10 years’ worth of proposed construction never materialized. The owner utilized laws passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to extend permits, preventing the borough from acting to condemn the property. After those extensions began to expire several years ago, the redevelopment process began, and the borough ultimately voted to take the site by eminent domain and immediately re-sell it to a developer who complied with the terms of a redevelopment ordinance, including guaranteed financing for a new project. Last week, the multi-year effort culminated in the approval of the taking.
“The judge signed off on it,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “The only thing we have to do – and it’s being done as we speak – is to get the owner their money.”
The borough passed bond ordinances to appropriate the market value of the site to compensate Craparotta, and will recoup its expenditure by selling the land back to a private owner who will redevelop the site. Earlier this year, the borough chose a group of developers that includes the wife of Ocean County political power broker George Gilmore to redevelop the site with a mixed-use site plan.
Vaz said Craparotta may challenge the borough’s valuation of the property, however that is relatively common in eminent domain proceedings, and such action has no affect on the actual ownership of the property, which is now in the hands of the municipal government.
The next step will be what residents, visitors – and especially officials – have been seeking for years: demolition.
“I’m hoping by the end of the month we’ll be able to get started as far as knocking it down,” said Vaz.
Craparotta, at one point, had grand plans for the site that included a nightlife and restaurant complex with a pool club and other amenities. The bored-out shell of the would-be pools can still be seen through the fencing around the property today. In the years the preceded the 2008 recession, as well as the ushering-in of the post-MTV era with new borough leadership, the nightclub market waned in Seaside Heights, with the neighboring Bamboo and Karma nightclubs shutting down and being sold at auction, as well as a plan to resurrect the former Merge nightclub never coming to fruition.
“I’m hoping by the end of the month we’ll be able to get started as far as knocking it down,” Vaz said of the steel edifice.
Officials say they are looking toward a new era for the Boulevard business district that will see higher-end construction, modern development and a cohesive plan for land use and growth.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy, but when it’s done and they begin construction, you’re going to see this Boulevard take off,” Vaz predicted. “Bamboo and Karma will be redeveloped too, and we’ve been promised $1 million from the [state] Department of Community Affairs for redevelopment.”