Seaside Heights has notified a group of investors – including multiple political heavyweights – heading the effort to redevelop the so-called “steel structure” on the Boulevard that they must begin taking action on the property or risk losing the right to build there.
The redeveloper of the parcel, known as SSH Boulevard, LLC, is led by Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore, along with Dan Matarese, Zachary Rich, former New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt and Joanne Gilmore, George Gilmore’s wife. The consortium has received local approval to build a mixed-use retail and residential complex that will measure 255,000 square feet between Hamilton and Webster avenues.
The space was formerly owned by local nightclub operator Vincent Craparotta, who envisioned the property as an entertainment complex similar to The Pool at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, alongside restaurants and other attractions. But after steel framing was installed, the property was left to rot for years until it was finally condemned by Seaside Heights and quickly demolished. The borough then designated the property as being in need of redevelopment and selected the SSH Boulevard group after a public bidding process.
The borough council last week unanimously adopted a resolution setting a 30-day deadline for the execution of a PILOT application and “any outstanding agreements and documents.”
PILOT is an acronym that stands for “payment in lieu of taxes,” and is often referred to as a tax abatement. Establishing PILOT agreements, under which a property owner pays an agreed-upon annual fee to the borough rather than a traditional tax assessment, is common in redevelopment projects. The remaining documents refer to those that will ultimately enable the borough to transfer the title of the property to the new owners, and guarantees that construction will begin according to a timeline established by the governing body.
The deadline is May 5, one month from the April 5 meeting at which the resolution was adopted.
The project has been held up in the CAFRA approval process – an acronym that stands for the Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act, a set of environmental reviews and regulations unique to New Jersey’s coastal areas that is notoriously time-consuming.
“They have their CAFRA application filed, but the other part of the process that involves the town getting certain documents finalized and signed has been slow,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “The council adopted the resolution to basically say, ‘listen, we need to get this done.’”
The CAFRA approval is particularly tedious in the case of this particular project because of its size – a 10 story structure – and the fact that its parking garage will be located underneath the building, necessitating the use of piles which will need to be driven nearly 100 feet underground, officials said.
Gilmore, reached for comment in a separate article by the Asbury Park Press, said he plans on engaging with borough officials to discuss the resolution at an upcoming public meeting.
The resolution passed by the council could have significant consequences for the ownership group if it passes without the issues being settled.
“The council needs this done because, if they’re going to slow-walk it, we can always go out and put out a request for interested people who might want to submit their qualifications,” said Vaz.
The lot, since the demolition of the hulking, rusting steel framing in 2021, has been fenced off from the public and has remained empty, mainly with a gravel and sand surface.
With projects adjacent to the property about to get underway, having received planning board approval, officials say they are serious about ensuring the borough’s high-profile redevelopment projects come to fruition and combine to create a cohesive Boulevard district with a healthy mix of year-round residents, summer visitors, restaurants, retail and office occupants.
“We know things are moving on, but there are very important pieces of this process that have been very slow, and the borough council unanimously just wants to get this behind us, close title, and get it off our books – get things moving,” Vaz said.