Seaside Heights redevelopment accelerates with Boulevard projects

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SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Are real estate investors finally discovering Seaside Heights?

Asked about the current development, Mayor Anthony Vaz and Mike Loundy, a local real estate agent who is also the borough’s director of community development, ticked off a list of projects approved or proposed in this small seaside borough.

Among them, the planned redevelopment of the old Boulevard nightclub, the Bamboo Bar, which should soon be demolished and replaced by a four-story building that will include housing and shops; the replacement of two motels – the Quality Inn and the Aquarius Motel – which will be demolished to make way for single-family homes, and the planned construction of a $ 4 million wedding venue and residences in a two-story addition at the Hooks Bar and Grill, also on the Boulevard.

The Ocean Club, which includes a promenade restaurant and an adjacent beach club at the southern end of the borough, finally opened in late summer after numerous construction delays.

And at the north end of the promenade, a recently completed pavilion – which will eventually house the Dentzel-Looff carousel from 1910 – hosted concerts and children’s programs this summer.

These projects are in addition to SSH Boulevard LLC’s plan to build an eight-story building with 79 condominiums, a restaurant, and a retail outlet on the Boulevard property where a rusty steel skeleton has long been housed that was once believed to be part of the building. ‘a nightclub and a banquet planned. room. The developers have said their intention is to attract residents year round to purchase condominiums in the building.

Dan Matarese, owner of Danco General Contracting Inc. in Marlboro, and a partner of SSH Boulevard LLC, has estimated that construction of the 225,000 square foot mixed-use building will cost $ 30 million.

In mid-August, when Danco began tearing down the four-story steel structure, Vaz and members of the city council held a press conference in which the mayor smashed a celebratory champagne bottle against a beam. rusty steel.

“This boulevard is going to be something we all brag about,” Vaz said at the time. Borough officials have long believed that the rusty four-story steel skeleton, which towered over the boulevard for more than a decade, discouraged other investors from trying their luck on Seaside Heights.

After trying to work with the owner of the steel structure, Vincent Craporatta Jr., for several years, Seaside Heights decided to condemn the three lots that make up the site in December, paving the way for the borough to take possession of the site. land across a prominent estate.

“Everyone is very, very happy”

The mayor said the business community has expressed satisfaction with the borough’s ongoing redevelopment efforts.

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“Everyone is very, very happy,” he said. “Businessmen have come up to me, told me they feel very comfortable, like the direction in which we are going.”

Zach Rich, director of concrete promotion and sales for The Silvi Group, and another of SSH Boulevard’s partners, told borough council earlier this year that he was optimistic about the future of Seaside Heights. .

“We’re here because we believe in Seaside,” Rich said at the time. “It is special.”

Rudy Daunno, who is part of the group working on the Bamboo Bar redevelopment, said he thought Seaside Heights was “an underutilized asset,” with beautiful, wide beaches and an attractive promenade.

Loundy, who also owns Seaside Realty, said he believes Seaside Heights “is in the middle of a perfect storm, in a good way, with a lot of things lining up” for the borough.

“This is something that has been going on for years that a lot of people haven’t paid attention to,” Loundy said of the changes taking place in the borough. “It started with cleaning up old properties, reducing density in some residential areas, which opened the door to new developments and new construction. “

Start over after Sandy

After Super Storm Sandy devastated the borough in October 2012, destroying the boardwalk and causing severe flooding and property damage, Seaside Heights officials focused on better reconstruction, Loundy said.

“The city really, after Sandy, went to great lengths with the people who came in with damaged properties to bring them into zoning compliance,” he said. Officials have also focused on reducing housing density in parts of the city, opening the door to building “large single-family homes” in those areas, especially in the northern part of the city, Loundy noted. .

The COVID-19 pandemic then drove a wave of residents of cities like New York, Jersey City and Hoboken to search for homes on the Jersey Shore, especially those who could work from home indefinitely.

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“The areas all around us are a lot more expensive,” Loundy said, “and we’ve had a big name for a small town for a long time.… LBI is 18 miles; we’re 16 blocks away. The values ​​in all of these places are getting hard for people to get in. We’re all still affordable. “

Property values ​​in Seaside Heights are increasing, although, as Loundy noted, the borough remains relatively affordable compared to adjacent seaside towns, such as Seaside Park and the Ortley Beach section of Toms River.

He said buyers who bought newly built homes in Seaside Heights were able to rent them out for $ 6,000 a week during the summer months, earning enough money in six to eight weeks to pay off their mortgages for the year.

“A few hundred new units are planned, between single family homes and condos,” Loundy said, “that are real. It’s real and it’s happening.”

The Realtor.com website listed several properties for sale in Seaside Heights at the end of last week, with listing prices ranging from $ 110,000 for a one bedroom and one bathroom unit on Sumner. Avenue, at $ 2.5 million for vacant land now used as a parking lot. land on Ocean Terrace, with ocean view.

Limit the “bar atmosphere”

In recent years, Mayor Vaz and the Borough Council have aggressively tried to shift the image of Seaside Heights from a boisterous, bustling bar town to a more family-friendly destination.

The governing body has taken a series of measures to curb what Vaz has called the “bar atmosphere”, including banning teenage parties at clubs, requiring someone to be at least 18 to rent a car. hotel or motel room, apartment or condominium, and giving power to the police. to impose a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for children under 17 unaccompanied by an adult.

This summer, Seaside Heights also moved to revoke business licenses for several motels and rental properties, citing repeated calls to police and code violations.

An ordinance known as “Animal House,” named after the 1978 film about a rebellious college fraternity house, allows Seaside Heights to revoke landowners’ business licenses for repeated violations.

It targets the named owners for at least three “separate and verified” complaints of bad behavior or code violations on the premises. If their business licenses are revoked, the properties could no longer be leased.

There are over two dozen motels in Seaside Heights and hundreds of rental properties.

This spring, Gerardo Ruiz, 50, was charged with murder after Alecia Perreault, 29, was found dead in a room at the Offshore Motel, one of the properties cited by the borough.

Authorities alleged Ruiz killed Perrault at the motel early and subsequently suffered a drug overdose.

Vaz said last week that motel owners cited by the borough had backed down, filing a lawsuit against the borough challenging Seaside Heights’ actions.

Motel owners are not the first to oppose some of the borough’s attempts to modify Seaside Heights.

In 2020, several boardwalk business owners – and a handful of locals – complained about a zoning change that banned bars and nightclubs in the easternmost lots along the boardwalk, between Sheridan and Hiering avenues.

The zoning change also banned rides and placed restrictions on restaurants, banning live music and forcing restaurants to close before midnight.

Vaz said at the time that the zoning change was aimed at preserving the quality of life for residents of the quieter northern part of town.

“We said when we took office in the Vaz administration, it was all about the quality of life,” said the mayor. And the zoning change has been applauded by several residents who live on the north end of Seaside Heights.

Seaside has also received recent state aid, which gave Seaside Heights $ 1 million to help demolish dilapidated properties. Vaz, a Republican, caused a sensation earlier this summer when he backed Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, for re-election in November.

Vaz said his reason was simple: the governor “supports our community”.

Always state aid

Despite all the new developments in the city, Seaside Heights rate base has still not recovered from Sandy: Royalties are still more than $ 200 million lower than they were before the storm of 2012. The arrondissement continues to receive transitional state aid. , and its spending is monitored by New Jersey.

And some nearby residents have raised concerns about the height of the proposed building SSH Boulevard plans to build where the steel skeleton once stood, saying it may be too tall for the neighborhood.

Loundy remains one of Seaside’s biggest cheerleaders and said he believes the borough’s future is bright. He noted that there are “1,000 linear feet of commercial space close to being under construction on the boulevard, mixed use, with condominiums above.”

“This is the result of a lot of hard work by our mayor and our city council,” he said.

Jean Mikle has covered Toms River and several other towns in Ocean County, and has written on local government and politics on the Jersey Shore for almost 37 years. She is also passionate about the legendary Shore music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]

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