A swing of a sledge hammer marked a critical moment in the rebuilding process of a Jersey Shore town.
“It’s time,” said Lois Spiegel of Ventnor. “It’s absolutely about time.”
Ventnor Mayor Mike Bagnell along with developers from Pelican Properties struck the bricks of the once flourishing Monaco Motel during a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. Vacant for years, the motel is now an eyesore and is set for demolition in a few weeks.
“It’s all image,” Bagnell said. “Once people realize that there is activity and once this building comes down to the ground, that’s going to be a plus. People are going to realize that they are taking a chance and they are starting to build there.”
In the motel’s place will be a project that the town hopes will revitalize its economy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Named “the Waves,” the project will include 27 luxury townhomes on Ventnor’s oceanfront. Officials say “the Waves” will provide what will likely be the last opportunity for shore homebuyers to purchase newly constructed beachfront homes. It’s the first project of its kind in a quarter century.
Ventnor resident Marsha Pecker believes the $25 million development will be a shot in the arm in the shore’s recovery by inspiring homeowners or new buyers to invest in new construction.
“It will boost the economy here,” Pecker said. “Our little neighborhood here is really rejuvenated. We have an art gallery and we have lovely restaurants.”
“The Waves” townhomes include five bedrooms and an elevator in each unit. In Sandy’s aftermath, economic developers believe that the ambitious project is proof that the shore is truly stronger than the storm.
“This is true economic development after the storm,” said David Perlman of Pelican Properties. “Sandy has set us back slightly but in the long run has helped us build a better product to weather a stronger storm.”
In Ventnor, only five new homes have been built in the last several months. Bagnell says there was a 30% increase over last year but it’s still slow due to residents who waited for the rezoning of FEMA flood maps. Both the mayor and developers hope “The Waves” will create a swell in residential development and provide inspiration to other shore communities.
“I’m hoping people take a page out of their playbook and say, ‘Hey, they took a chance on the Monaco, let’s take a chance elsewhere in the city,” he said. “Sandy did knock us down. But she didn’t knock us out.”