Point Pleasant Beach officials have taken the first step toward the purchase of the former U.S. Coast Guard Station on Inlet Drive, built in 1936, to be historically preserved and used as a community event space.
A new station, including a boat maintenance facility, was completed in 2017 across the street from the historic building. Since then, the former station has sat largely dormant and was authorized to be sold by the federal government. Point Pleasant Beach officials, two weeks ago, introduced a bond ordinance, appropriating $1,070,000 toward the $1,016,500 building.
The bond measure was approved unanimously by the borough council, and will be the subject of a public hearing and adoption vote at the governing body’s June 20 meeting.
“Because it’s on the federal and state historic registers, we’re going to be eligible for a ton of historic grants as well,” said Mayor Paul Kanitra. “I don’t think it was discussed too much as part of this process, but it is literally the quintessential type of thing they give out state and federal grant money for.”
Kanitra said the purchase engendered a groundswell of public support, however there were some detractors, including members of the Open Space Commission. The borough is not using open space funds toward the project.
“We had two major objections,” said Anne Lightburn, a member of the commission. “One is the cost – a million dollars is a million dollars, and it is going to need a lot of renovations.”
Lightburn also said a lack of parking could limit the use cases for the building. Kanitra acknowledged the parking issue, but said municipal staff would work on a solution, even if it means freeing up just enough spaces for handicap access or a place for senior citizens to park for events. The lack of parking was one of the reasons, he said, why the property sold for such a low amount, comparative to other properties in Point Pleasant Beach near the inlet district.
“There is no parking included, which is one of the reasons we were able to negotiate them down,” Kanitra said. “When we gave them the initial offer, they said it was way, way less than anticipated.”
Kristin Hennessy, however, told members of the governing body before the vote that the purchase would be one of the most meaningful in the town’s history. Her father, longtime mayor Daniel Hennessy, began an effort to preserve the building when talk of its replacement first started in the early 2000s.
“This is probably one of the most reasonable, prudent purchases we could make,” said Hennessy. “My father, the longest-serving mayor in Ocean County, had a vision. He said back in 2000 that some day, we need to be able to preserve and protect the history of Point Pleasant Beach and acquire the Coast Guard station.”
Calling the purchase a “no-brainer,” Hennessy considered the price tag a bargain.
“That will be property that will be beneficial to Point Pleasant Beach,” she said. “This is really a no-brainer that we can buy this beautiful property on the inlet to use however we’d like. It’s ours, and now as an extension of borough hall, we can use it for civic events. It’s going to be a major return on our money, and besides, it’s just an ideal location. Where are you going to get a historic building on waterfront property for $1 million?”
The historic station replaced several buildings operated closer to the shoreline that were operated by the United States Life-Saving Service, the precursor agency to the Coast Guard. Such stations once needed to be located physically across from the oceanfront so rescue boats could be hand-launched into the water. As motorboats became the norm, the Coast Guard began building stations closer to inlets and dock areas where rescue boats could easily access the ocean and back bays. In the modern age, Station Manasquan Inlet was one of the first stations to implement the advanced Rescue 21 command and control suite that is used to manage search-and-rescue operations.
The 1936 building replaced the Manasquan, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Chadwick Beach and Toms River (Seaside Park) stations. Two of those – Manasquan and Seaside Park – were ultimately purchased by the towns in which they were located. In Seaside Park, the renovated building serves as borough hall.
Rumblings about the construction of a new station were abound for years, but plans for a new building were solidified after the 1936 building was damaged in Superstorm Sandy. The Coast Guard envisioned replacing it with a “multi-mission facility,” a new architectural and engineering premise that combines administrative areas, a command center, mess deck, crew quarters and boat maintenance and repair facilities in one complex.
The new building is a three-story, steel-stud building built on a concrete foundation supported by concrete piles, according to Mortensen Engineering, the firm that designed it.
Editor’s Note: Come back to Shorebeat on Monday for the first of a series of stories chronicling the history of Seaside Park for its 125th anniversary. The first will be an inside tour of the former U.S. Life Saving Service and Coast Guard building that was preserved there.