An ultra-modern, 36-unit mixed-use complex is set to transform the location that was once the choice hangout for cast members of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” into one of the borough’s most significant development projects in its history.
The block-long property that once housed the Karma nightclub, if ultimately approved, would represent one of the pinnacles of the borough’s redevelopment efforts. The first renderings and initial details of the project were revealed this week during an informal work session of the borough council, which is poised to formally designate the former nightspot as a redevelopment area, providing extra latitude to customize the property’s appearance and and purpose.
Under the plan being proposed by a local redeveloper, the nightclub building and a connected restaurant would be demolished in favor of a mixed use complex that would front the Boulevard and stretch the entire length of the area between Hamilton and Webster avenues. The project’s architect, Jason Hanrahan, said the construction would center around an “active streetscape” that will breathe new life into the business corridor while also serving as the foundation to a five-story, 52-foot residential complex that will feature myriad amenities, including a top-of-the-line rooftop observation deck and an indoor pool facility.
“We want to create that pedestrian-friendly feel that will activate the Boulevard,” said Hanrahan, whose firm, MODE Architects, has been responsible for the design of several high-profile projects up and down the Jersey Shore, including the Ocean Club restaurant and cabana club on the oceanfront. “We’ll condition the space properly, we’ll have proper glazing, and this is intended to be a full year-round building with amenities year-round – not just the summer.”
Hanrahan said he expects there to be up to three commercial units on the first floor – likely a cafe or destination restaurant, and potential retail – between 800 and 1,700 square feet each. Above the first floor will be four stories of residential development, consisting of 36 dwellings, the deck and the indoor pool. The large space that the nightclub once took up allows the mixed-use development to fit within the borough’s vision for the Boulevard business corridor, combining a “downtown” feel with a modern theme.
“We’re not cramming as much density in here as we could,” Hanrahan explained, emphasizing the aesthetic appeal of the building, which will include its own parking facility and a grand lobby for residents separate from the commercial space. “Several courtyard areas will buffer the street, and we want to make sure access is off to the side road so no one is turning from the Boulevard onto the property.”
An elevator will run from the first floor to the rooftop observation deck, which the renderings show with a seating area, shaded corners and significant open floor space.
Hanrahan described the theme of the property as a “luxury coastal design.”
Before shovels break ground, the borough is expected to designate the former Karma property as an area in need of redevelopment. An initial hearing on the designation will be held at a planning board meeting next Monday. If the planning board endorses the plan, the borough council would have to formally adopt it and select a redeveloper – which, in this case, would likely be the current owner of the property.
The property was sold at auction in 2020 after Karma closed its doors amidst a bankruptcy filing by the former owner. The building has been vacant ever since, and will be torn down in anticipation of the new development.
In 2018, Seaside Heights officials sought an injunction to shut down Karma following alleged violations of borough ordinances and state liquor laws. The nightclub, by that time, was already for sale and never reopened. Its heyday occurred late in its existence, when the cast of the hit reality show “Jersey Shore” were filmed partying there in nearly every episode, but after the show’s run ended, the borough was hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy and nightclubs in Seaside Heights began to fall out of favor with partiers. At the same time, the borough doubled down on its efforts to revitalize the Boulevard district, raze vacant buildings and troublesome motels, and attract investors to re-imagine the most visible areas of town.
Plans call for the mixed-use complex to be built all at once – not in phases – with residential owners able to access a view of the ocean from day one on the rooftop.
“We’re looking for a 2024 delivery, so we’re really putting our foot on the gas,” said real estate broke Mike Loundy, who will be offering the space for sale. “We also want to take the [Karma] building down as quickly as we can, but we’re obviously waiting for the municipal approvals.”
The planning board meeting at which the redevelopment designation will be considered is scheduled for Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. in the borough courtroom.