The next step in the proposed development of a six-story condominium complex on an existing parking lot adjacent to the historic Flanders Hotel in Ocean City takes place 6 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 14).
The owners of the lot will go before the Ocean City Planning Board with a proposed amendment to an approved redevelopment plan that calls for a hotel and spa at the same location. The owners say a hotel is not financially viable, and they’re seeking permission to develop condos instead.
Before the development could move forward, the Planning Board would have to approve the amendment, and City Council would have to approve a corresponding amended ordinance. The project would then be subject to site plan approval and all relevant permitting approvals.
The meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday is open to the public and public comment and takes place on the third floor of City Hall at Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue.
The following is reposted from coverage of a May 14, 2014 Planning Board meeting in which the applicants made an informational presentation on the proposed development:
Owners of a parking lot adjacent to the Flanders Hotel gave the Ocean City Planning Board a look at plans for what they hope will become a six-story building housing 92 condominium units.
Select Properties, Inc., made an informational presentation to the board on Wednesday. The company ultimately hopes to get permission to sell 88 four-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units to individual buyers.
An existing redevelopment plan for The Soleil at 11th Street and Ocean Avenue approves a similarly sized building for use as a hotel and spa — a project that never got off the ground for lack of financial viability.
Planning Board Solicitor Gary Griffith emphasized that the presentation was neither an application for approval nor a request to adjust the existing redevelopment plan.
“The board is going to listen and that’s all that’s going to get done,” Griffith said.
He said the presentation was just “the first step in what could be a long and interesting process” that would include review by the board, the City Council and the public.
Nicholas Talvacchia, an Atlantic City attorney representing Select Properties, told the board that the property has been unsuccessfully marketed for years as a hotel site — a use first approved in a June 2005 redevelopment plan.
The property includes a deed restriction that requires the owner to maintain 152 parking spaces for the Flanders Hotel. The requirement forces construction of a parking deck, if a developer hopes to use any substantial portion of the property for a building. Talvacchia said obtaining financing for a hotel in Ocean City’s seasonal market (absent a nearby interstate highway and absent a convention center) is not feasible.
“What’s left is a condominium project,” Talvacchia said.
He said owners envision 92 units individually owned as second homes or investment properties. The complex would include a lobby area, a deli/restaurant and a pool. He suggested that individual owners could rent the units by the week or even by the weekend.
“It’s the ideal product for families who want to visit Ocean City,” he said. “Guests will come and spend money in Ocean City.”
He said the condominium owners would likely use their properties in the off-season, further helping local merchants. And he said the 92 new properties could bring substantial tax revenue to the city.
The transient traffic could bring economic vitality to Ocean City from what was an empty lot, he suggested.
His request: that the Planning Board allow a straight residential use for the property.
That change would require the board to approve a change in the redevelopment plan and the City Council to pass a corresponding ordinance.
Clayton Heckler, president of Select Properties of Colmar, Pa., said he purchased the property as an investment about three years ago.
He said he then looked at all options, including a hotel and retail, ultimately deciding that residential property would be the only one that would sell.
“You realized you made a bad decision, and you want us to bail you out,” Planning Board member Marc Shuster said.
Russell Trier bought the Ocean City property, used as a parking lot for the Flanders and public, in 2003 and with partner Joe Ernst won approvals for the Soleil Hotel & Spa in 2009. But the investors never found the financing to complete the project.
The property has remained as a parking lot ever since.
The last hotels to be built in Ocean City were the Biscayne and Watson’s Regency in 1990, said RE/MAX Realtor Damon Bready, who has worked to market The Soleil.
“If a hotel were going to work on this site, it would have been done already,” he said.
Architect Bruce Englebaugh showed the board plans for a six-story complex that includes a four-deck parking garage, outdoor showers, a deli/restaurant, a rental/sales office, a lobby, a pool and an exercise facility.
The four-bedroom units would cover 1,570 square feet and the few three-bedroom units would be 1,175 square feet.
On the Boardwalk skyline, he said The Soleil (at 74 feet tall) would step down from the Flanders (at 117 feet) to the Surf Mall to the south.
The property covers 1.98 acres.
QUESTIONS FROM THE BOARD
Wednesday’s presentation include no comment from the public and little from the board.
But board members were able to ask questions.
Mike Dattilo asked if owners would have requirements on how often they have to rent their units. (The answer: no.)
After listening to Anthony Graziano, executive director of Integra Realty Resources, testify about the vast gap between what it would cost to build a hotel and what a hotel could reasonably expect to earn, Shuster asked if the original redevelopment plan was significantly flawed in its economic analysis.
Graziano responded with a simple “yes.”
And after hearing presenters speak about how the new project would “complement” and not “compete” with the Flanders, Shuster asked, “How is this not competition for the Flanders?”
The board made no immediate plans on Wednesday to schedule any further discussion of the proposal.