The Seaside Heights planning board on Monday night approved a measure designating a swath of properties near Ocean Terrace and Lincoln Avenue as areas in need of redevelopment, the first step in clearing the way for a proposed 180-room hotel and banquet center with oceanfront views.
The board’s 6-0 decision recommends designating the properties where three motels currently exist as a redevelopment area: the sites of the Surfside, Glendale and Dry Dock motels. Another small lot in between two of the properties was also recommended to be formally declared part of the area, since its location makes it necessary for redevelopment to occur. The borough council, which has the final say on the matter, is expected to affirm the board’s decision at an upcoming meeting.
A developer from the Boston area has indicated a serious interest in building a full-service hotel and banquet facility at the site. The project, behind the scenes, has progressed to the point of new renderings having been developed showing what the future facility might look like. They were provided to Shorebeat by real estate broker Mike Loundy, whose firm Seaside Realty will be handling a potential sale of the properties.
Declaring an area in need of redevelopment places the borough directly in charge of approving what would replace existing buildings that are dilapidated, obsolete or otherwise qualifying for the designation. It can also serve as the first step in a condemnation process, though officials specified the motel properties would not be part of any eminent domain taking. Instead, should willing buyers and sellers agree to complete a sale, the process of redeveloping the parcels would be outlined in writing, and a redeveloper would be appointed to build to the specifications outlined by the borough. Officials would also be empowered to ensure a redeveloper has sufficient finances to complete the project and set deadlines for certain construction benchmarks.
What’s Being Replaced?
Keenan Hughes, a redevelopment consultant hired by the borough, outlined the case for declaring the swath of properties as being in need of redevelopment. In the case of the three motels, each has produced hundreds of calls to police over the last two to three summer seasons, the most serious of which included at least one homicide and the discovery of several deceased people upon arrival of authorities.
The Surfside Motel was observed to have “severely rusted and damaged air conditioning units, wall damage, and chipped interior stairs,” Hughes said, and dilapidated pavement and the lack of seemingly any traffic circulation pattern “has a deadening effect on the pedestrian environment.”
“There has also been a significant amount of police activity on this property in recent years,” said Hughes, producing over 240 calls to police over the last three summer seasons. “All of the physical issues are connected to the fact that this is a troubled property, given the amount of law enforcement responses over the past few years.”
The nearby Glendale motel, he said, “included rusted walls and a damaged door frame, rusted laundry unit, uneven stairs, unhygienic refrigerator.”
That motel, he said, produced 128 calls to police over the last several summers, including “suspicious persons, fights, disorderly conduct and two DOAs.”
The Dry Dock Motel, also included in the redevelopment area, suffers from a lack of maintenance, Hughes said, including deterioration of the facade and sides of the building and heavily-rusted mechanical equipment.
“Overall, there is just a general lack of maintenance in the interior of the units,” he said, following an inspection of the facility.
That motel, too, received over 200 calls to police for many of the same issues experienced at the other motels.
“There is empirical evidence as to the harm this property is causing the community,” Hughes said.
Another building located in between Dry Dock and Glendale motels on Lincoln Avenue, owned by the same party as the Dry Dock, would not normally fit the criteria for a redevelopment declaration, Hughes said, except that state law allows the designation for a building that – it it were to remain – would block the implementation of a larger redevelopment effort.
If the borough council adopts the planning board’s recommendation, as expected, the prospective redeveloper would participate in a public competition to build the hotel, and purchase the properties required. The redeveloper, once designated, would return to the planning board for final approval of the hotel once final plans are developed by professionals and various local and state permits are in-hand.
The interest in building a new hotel in town initially emerged in the spring, Mayor Anthony Vaz said. An outline of the proposal envisions a 180-room hotel based at 200 Ocean Terrace, now the site of the Surfside Motel, which according to county property records was built in 1971 and encompasses a 24,000 square-foot parcel which consists of three lots. The other two motels, plus the small property midway between them, would come together to form the footprint of the facility, which would have sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and the lights of the boardwalk.
The banquet facility could host weddings, corporate gatherings or civic events, he said.
Loundy said after the hearing Monday night that nearly half of the borough’s outdated motels have been either approved for, or are in the process of, redevelopment. Long seen as businesses that were often unkempt and attracted a troublesome clientele, the motels are being replaced primarily by condominiums and townhomes, but a major, modern hotel would restore short-term rooms for guests in a clean, safe environment.
“This is a game-changer, it’s a beautiful project that will bring in more than 150 motel rooms, give or take, a spa and the ability to have large events there and a restaurant,” said Loundy. “It’ll have beautiful ocean views and it will add a facet to the city that we haven’t had in the past.”
Designating the properties as redevelopment areas has spurred major investments into the borough, he added.
“The borough’s allowance here for us to build on the footprint changes the game, or else this couldn’t be done,” Loundy said. “It’s a great accomplishment, and our mayor and council have shown a lot spectacular leadership.”