SHIP BOTTOM — Developer Nicholas Garofolo said it has been a long, hard, expensive road to transform an eyesore parcel of land at the borough's circle at Route 72, from an abandoned gas station to a trophy property.

This month, Garofolo and his partners at Circul Custom Builders received a unanimous approval from the borough's Land Use Board for their plans to build models for a homes sales center.

Garofolo said for six years he has owned the property, which is located at the gateway to Long Beach Island in Ship Bottom between Eighth and Ninth streets and adjacent to Route 72 eastbound. The circle-shaped parcel remains one of the last undeveloped commercial pieces of property on Long Beach Island.

The project includes plans to build a 1,725-square-foot office and three modular model homes on piling at the one-acre site that has sat empty and abandoned for the last 20 years. The homes that will be built are typically referred to as prefabricated, but Garofolo said he does not use that terminology to describe them.

“These are environmentally controlled construction, or EC2. We’ve sold three houses in the last month, and we don't even have an office up yet,” he said.

Circul Custom Building partner and architect William Tagland said Tuesday that his company has secured Long Beach Island's money spot, and it will be the perfect place for a business like this one. He said he still remembers getting gas at the old Exxon station 20 years ago.

“We can design and build entry-level housing for people. Before everything changed in the market we had people spending top dollar for property and to get as much as they could for their money I would tell them we had to max out as far as size. But with these homes we can go back and expand these houses because they are modular,” Tagland said.

Garofolo said the company is attempting to create a one-stop shopping experience for the homebuyer with onsite engineering, construction, financing, design, insurance and alternative energy options, including wind and solar power.

“Hopefully we'll have the office up in November and we plan on having two models built by early spring and hopefully a third model next summer,” Garofolo said.

Circul Custom Building also has plans to bring a similar business venture to Atlantic and Monmouth counties and Ocean City, Md.

He said the reason he didn't pursue a typical resort commercial property is due in part to the economic climate.

“I entertained a lot of different ideas. I was negotiating with Walgreens and they were very aggressive with the project and then backed off. I didn't want to put a restaurant there because I feel LBI only has  an eight-week season. And I was going to put a hotel there but we calculated that if we had two rainy weekends we were toast,” he said.

He said the value of the property and the cost of building a restaurant had numbers that just didn't mix.

“To be honest, there has been a lot of work involved in the approval process and there's still some ongoing remediation going on with Exxon in an area where we're not placing the homes. It's been a long, hard and expensive road,” he said. 

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