Has Ventnor transformed itself into a trendy, arty community of galleries, live music and outdoor cafes?

No. Not yet anyway.

But it is well on its way, thanks to the hard work of several local groups and individuals and thanks to something urban planners everywhere wish for - a kind of natural, organic development that just happened.

Actually, it was a failed redevelopment plan that sparked many of the encouraging changes now under way in Ventnor.

The plan to replace a large swath of the city with luxury condos was vehemently opposed and ultimately defeated by local residents. That fight gave birth to a "rebranding" of the area as "North Beach" (which is now morphing into NoBe, a play on Miami's South Beach or SoBe) and a committee that became the North Beach Residents Committee.

Some beautification efforts by the Ventnor City Beautification Committee and others followed - and now parts of Ventnor along Atlantic Avenue are ... well, catching on.

There's the Melalani Cafe, which has open-mic nights, live music and showings by local artists. There's the North Beach Gallery and the Holtzman Gallery. There's Sage, a longtime local restaurant that was in the vanguard of the hipper Ventnor movement.

And there's a vibe ...

"It has a great little neighborhood feel to it," Lisa Savage, owner of Sage, recently told Press staff writer Steven Lemongello.

"This is where it's at. I live in Margate, and I ride my bike here to hang out," said Rachel Albanese, a blogger who came up with "NoBe."

Ventnor has always been an interesting little shore town. It is hipper, funkier and, on the whole, not quite as upscale as Margate, its neighbor to the south. Nor does it have Margate's bars. And Ventnor is more residential, with more of a small-town feel than Atlantic City, its larger neighbor to the north.

Also, as this burgeoning redevelopment movement has shown, Ventnor has a wealth of caring, active residents and business people who simply love their town.

It's all working. Ventnor may not quite yet be South Beach - or Soho by the Shore (another popular new name being thrown around).

But it's getting there - thanks not to any grand redevelopment scheme, but to simply a handful of people who are working hard to make it happen.

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