One year after their project was soundly rejected, the developers of a proposed condo-hotel are coming back to seek approval from Ocean City planners.
This time, they are not requesting any variances or changes in the city’s redevelopment plan to accommodate construction. They are also promising to do a better job in outlining exactly what they want to build on what is now a parking lot at the corner of Ocean Avenue and 11th Street next to the historic Flanders Hotel.
Select Properties Inc., of Colmar, Pa., is scheduled to appear before the Ocean City Planning Board at 6 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 13) for site plan approval for its six-story, 111-unit Soleil Resort condo-hotel.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held in Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall (at Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue).
In January 2015, the planning board denied Select’s proposed project after the company sought changes in the city’s redevelopment zone to allow construction to proceed on what some thought was purely a condominium project.
Joe Ernst, a Philadelphia-area builder who has partnered with Select, said the developers have always wanted to build a condo-hotel, despite the impression among some members of the Planning Board last year that the project was going to be a condo complex.
“This project was never, ever going to be anything but a condo-hotel,” Ernst said in an interview Tuesday.
Ernst, however, added that Select and its representatives could have been clearer in describing the project to city officials last year.
“Maybe we didn’t do a good job in demonstrating that,” he said.
He pledged there would be no such confusion this time around.
The city’s redevelopment plan approved in 2005 envisions using the site for hotel-resort construction, a key part of efforts to attract more tourists to town.
Members of the board were unwilling last year to recommend amending the redevelopment plan to accommodate Select’s proposal. Ernst said the project has been tweaked since last year to avoid needing any variances or amendments.
Now much simpler to understand, Select’s revised application gives the city “every aspect” that it wanted for the project’s height, density, room sizes and other elements, Ernst said.
The board made it clear last year that it wanted a new hotel project to help draw more overnight visitors and boost other sectors of the local economy.
Randall Scheule, city planner, emphasized those same points in a Nov. 5, 2015, report to the board in response to Select’s amended application for site plan approval.
“The Redevelopment Plan envisions a first class, year-round resort hotel at the corner of 11th and Ocean that will complement the Flanders Hotel, support Boardwalk business and stimulate tourism,” Scheule wrote. “The resort hotel is to be a destination that capitalizes on this unique location with architecture, amenities and a streetscape carefully designed to reinforce the historic architecture of the Flanders Hotel.”
Last year, Select’s representatives insisted that a standalone hotel at this location would not be financially feasible.
But now, Ernst says there has been enough improvement in the market to convince the developers that a condo-hotel would be successful.
“This is a viable project. I talked to a lot of people who are yearning for a project like this,” he said, referring to tourists and potential hotel guests.
Under Select’s plan, individual condo owners would rent out their units to hotel guests, Ernst explained. A professional management company would oversee hotel operations.
Ernst said Soleil Resort would operate similar to the setup at the Flanders, also a combination of condos and hotel lodging.
City planners have proposed a list of conditions that Select must meet to win project approval. They include a requirement that Soleil must operate as a hotel “at all times.” Also, documentation must be provided to the city each month, if requested, to prove the hotel operations, according to a document that is part of Select’s application.
Another requirement is for hotel management to have a list of every hotel guest available for city inspection.
Jim Mallon, the city’s business administrator, declined to comment Tuesday in advance of the planning board meeting. He said it will be up to the board to independently weigh the merits of the project before voting.
“They have to follow the law and listen to the testimony,” Mallon said.
A similar plan for a condo-hotel at the same location was approved by the city in 2007, but the developers, Trier Group LLC, failed to secure financing and the project fizzled.
Select principal Clayton Heckler acquired the site in 2009 and teamed up with Ernst’s construction company. In addition to the condo-hotel, Select plans to develop a three-level parking garage containing about 400 spaces, a restaurant, a pool and a fitness center.
Soleil Resort’s parking garage would be open to the public. Soleil would have to make 152 of its parking spaces available to the Flanders Hotel as part of the requirements of a 1995 deed restriction for the property.
The project would look much the same as the architectural renderings that Select submitted to the city last year, Ernst said.
Ernst noted it is not yet clear how much the condo-hotel would cost and when construction would begin.
“It depends on city approvals,” he said. “It’s difficult to get financing without approvals.”