It’s official. Done. Closing time, in the most literal of senses, for one of the Jersey Shore’s iconic properties.
One of the largest oceanfront preservation projects in modern New Jersey history was completed Thursday as Toms River Township took formal ownership of the property that once housed Joey Harrison’s Surf Club, a nightclub, restaurant and adjacent condominium units that were a neighborhood staple for generations. The business was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
Toms River officials signed the documents executing the sale Thursday alongside members of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, which was a dominant force in pushing for the preservation and helping facilitate it. The group footed the bill for professional mediators to negotiate a settlement between the Barcelona family, which owned the Surf Club, and the township. The purchase was funded through a combination of state Blue Acres grants, funding from the sale of land on the mainland to Ocean County and the township’s open space fund.
“But it was the persistence of the OBVTA that first put the Surf Club property on the public radar, and the support of its now nearly 700 paid memberships that kept it there through years of delays, negotiations, setbacks, bureaucratic foot dragging and heated politicking,” a jubilant OBVTA leadership said in a statement to Shorebeat.
“From the start, this was an effort to improve the quality of life for all lovers of the Jersey Shore,” said Anthony Colucci, OBVTA president. “As we’ve said repeatedly, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect and preserve a substantial portion of the oceanfront, and the OBVTA was determined to see it happen.”
While the deal was being finalized, the hulking rubble of the Surf Club’s foundation, served as a daily reminder of the devastation that Superstorm Sandy wrought on the community, dubbed “ground zero” for the storm. The club was demolished in several steps over the past few weeks.
The local organization credited Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill and outgoing Councilwoman Maria Maruca for supporting the effort. The Toms River council has also been responsible for other improvements in Ortley Beach, including new pickleball courts, street raisings and an ambitious “streetscape” program that seeks to create a better and more year-round venue for the neighborhood’s business district.
“Ortley Beach remains not just a prime source of revenue for Toms River and Ocean County but is also becoming a top destination for homebuyers and visitors along the Jersey Shore,” Colucci said. “Our beautiful new dunes and sandy beaches are among the best at the shore. With the addition of the Surf Club properties, an expanded boardwalk and parking, it will become an even more desirable location.”
The township’s contribution toward the $7.3 million acquisition was financed through the sale of land near Cattus Island County Park and Ocean County College to the county, which was finalized earlier this month. All aspects of the Surf Club transaction are now completed. Shorebeat will report back on a timeline for amenities and work at the site.