By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The shore town that touts itself as “America’s Greatest Family Resort” is getting a new hotel that reflects the family-friendly market.
Known as the North Island Inn, the all-suite boutique hotel is under construction on a prime spot only a block from the Boardwalk and will make its debut in the summer of 2020.
“The goal would be the Fourth of July,” the hotel’s developer, Christopher Glancey, said of the approximate timeframe for a grand opening. “But we’re always weather-dependent.”
Glancey spoke Tuesday during a bitterly cold afternoon that hardly evoked leisurely summer days lying on Ocean City’s sunny beaches.
However, Glancey and his development partner, Bob Morris, have their eye on the calendar as they press ahead to have the hotel ready in time for the bustling summer tourism season.
The project is taking shape on the highly visible corner of 10th Street and Ocean Avenue, just a block from the beach and the Boardwalk’s amusements, eateries and retail shops. Glancey noted that hotel customers will have an easy walk to the Boardwalk attractions.
Featuring a beach-themed design, the North Island Inn will position itself as a mid-market property to make the suites affordable to Ocean City’s typical family vacationers.
“The main goal for the project is to create a family hotel,” Glancey said.
The hotel will offer a combination of one, two or three-bedroom suites, giving families the flexibility to pick and choose the type of lodging they need, depending on the size of their group.
Although there will be 15 suites in the hotel, the number of bedrooms will raise the total amount of lodging to 45 rooms. Thirty-five rooms will feature ocean views.
The suites will include a kitchenette, dining room and living room, creating a type of home-away-from-home atmosphere that should be popular with families.
“If you have a three-bedroom suite, you can sleep up to 10 people,” Glancey said.
Glancey is not yet ready to announce room rates. Prices will be announced later on OCHotels.com. Although the words “boutique hotel” normally conjure up a certain amount of cachet and exclusively, Glancey stressed that the rates will remain within reach of Ocean City’s family vacationers.
“I don’t want to go upscale,” he said. “We don’t want to overshoot the market. It’s a family-friendly town.”
North Island Inn represents the first new hotel built in Ocean City in perhaps 20 years or more and will help update the lodging market with modern accommodations catering to families taking extended summer vacations, Glancey said.
“There hasn’t been anything new in a long time,” he said of the city’s hotel market. “Like most of the island, the construction has been heavily residential and not much commercial.”
Plans call for three stories of hotel space built over a ground-level parking garage. Glancey said the project will run in the millions, but declined to divulge the exact cost.
The North Island Inn hotel is the first new project in Ocean City for Glancey and Morris, two Sea Isle City developers who have been transforming that town with a new wave of retail, restaurant and residential construction.
North Island Inn follows Glancey and Morris’ purchase in 2018 of Ocean City’s Impala Island Inn motel from the former longtime owners, Anthony J. Frank and his family. When they bought the Impala, they also inherited the Franks’ plans for North Island Inn, a project that had languished on the drawing board for years.
To make room for construction, Glancey and Morris tore down an annex of the Impala, although the main part of the Impala remains across the street at the corner of 10th Street and Ocean Avenue. They also demolished a brown-brick building overlooking Ocean Avenue that had served as the garage for the historic Flanders Hotel decades ago.
Unlike the seasonal motels in town, the Impala is open year-round. Glancey also plans to operate the North Island Inn year-round. During the off-season months, the plan is to attract overnight guests who visit Ocean City for the holidays, conventions, special events and the highly popular fall and spring block parties that draw tens of thousands of people to town.
The Impala also manages the adjacent Ebb Tide Suites and Wild Dunes Inn to offer a variety of lodging for guests within the same block of Ocean Avenue.
“We’ll have the option for everything from single rooms all the way up to three-bedroom suites on the same block,” Glancey said of the North Island Inn, Impala, Ebb Tide and Wild Dunes.
Glancey and Morris are using their experience in the Sea Isle hospitality market to help guide them in Ocean City.
In the meantime, they have their eye out for other possible investments or development projects in both Sea Isle and Ocean City.
“We’re always looking to continue our growth in the hospitality industry,” Glancey said.
Glancey and Morris are well-known in Sea Isle for their combination commercial-residential projects that have transformed the city’s Townsends Inlet section. Their Dunes, Cove and Cape developments lining the Landis Avenue corridor in Townsends Inlet feature restaurant or retail space on the first floor and upscale condominiums on the top two stories.
In 2018, Glancey and Morris paid $7.3 million to purchase the LaCosta Lounge, a Sea Isle nightclub and bar that has been a centerpiece of the beach town’s entertainment scene since the 1960s.
They intend to demolish the LaCosta in late 2020 to redevelop the site into an upscale hotel, banquet, restaurant and bar complex called The Ludlam. They are lining up their regulatory approvals before starting construction on the project.