By Donald Wittkowski
Two Sea Isle City developers who have been transforming that town with a new wave of retail, restaurant and residential projects are making their first foray in Ocean City by acquiring a well-known motel located only a block from the Boardwalk.
Business partners Christopher Glancey and Bob Morris have bought the Impala Island Inn and surrounding property from longtime owners Anthony J. Frank and his family. Glancey confirmed the deal Tuesday, but declined to divulge the purchase price.
Glancey and Morris will keep the Impala open. The motel occupies the corner of 10th Street and Ocean Avenue.
At the same time, Glancey and Morris also plan to develop adjacent property into an all-suite boutique hotel.
The 15-suite hotel, known as the North Island Inn, was a project originally proposed by the Frank family, but languished on the drawing board for several years while the economy remained sluggish.
Encouraged by Ocean City’s now-flourishing economy, Glancey and Morris plan to open the new hotel in 2020 across the street from the Impala. Construction is expected to start this winter.
The hotel project was granted Ocean City Planning Board approval last year when it was being proposed by the Frank family. Plans call for three stories of hotel space built over a ground-level parking garage.
The inn’s large, all-suite accommodations will allow the property to market itself to families that are taking extended vacations in Ocean City.
“The new hotel will be an exciting addition,” Glancey said in an interview.
To create space for the hotel project, Glancey and Morris plan to demolish a small annex of the Impala as well as an old brown-brick building across the street that doubles as a garage and storage site. The brown-brick building, overlooking Ocean Avenue at 10th Street, was part of their purchase of the Impala.
The Impala, meanwhile, will continue to operate as a mid-level motel, Glancey said. The motel advertises itself as budget lodging, but its location provides guests with a prime spot just a block away from the beach and Boardwalk.
“It’s a great tradition, a great location and a great family town,” Glancey said of how the Impala and Ocean City’s family-friendly image complement each other.
Glancey praised the Frank family for keeping the motel in “tremendous shape” while it was under their ownership.
In addition to the Impala, the Franks have owned a cluster of lodging facilities in the same neighborhood, including the Wild Dunes Inn and the Ebb Tide Suites. They also own the Beach Club Suites on the Boardwalk. The other sites owned by the Franks are not part of the Impala’s sale to Glancey and Morris.
The Impala is the first acquisition in Ocean City for Glancey and Morris. The Impala deal closely follows their $7.3 million purchase of the LaCosta Lounge, a popular bar in Sea Isle City that has been a centerpiece of the beach town’s entertainment scene since the 1960s.
LaCosta is scheduled to remain open until the expiration of its operating lease through Sept. 30, 2019. However, Glancey and Morris plan to demolish the nightclub sometime after that date to redevelop the property. They are still discussing their plans, but have mentioned the possibility of building new bars, restaurants, retail shops or a hotel on the site.
In the past two years, Glancey and Morris have spent millions of dollars to orchestrate a retail, restaurant and residential revival in Sea Isle’s sleepy Townsends Inlet section.
They began in 2016 with their trendy Dunes development, a restaurant, banquet and condominium complex on Landis Avenue between 86th and 87th streets. The Dunes site is anchored by the upscale Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House restaurant.
Glancey and Morris have followed up on the Dunes with two more mixed-use projects in Townsends Inlet called the Cove and the Cape. The three-story buildings, which blend retail, commercial and condo space, are located a block from each other on Landis Avenue between 85th and 87th streets.