The Absecon Gardens building has been sitting vacant for years. Isn't it about time to put it to use?
In June, a state appeals court denied an appeal from a group of Absecon residents opposed to the city lifting the 55-years-and-older age restriction for the development.
The ruling said that the changes to the developer's site plans were not "arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable."
Opponents had argued - and still argue - that the developers didn't research the senior market before concluding that market is saturated and that the building needed to be opened up to all ages.
Others complained about parking, traffic and density issues in the busy commercial district, as well as more children in the school system, if the age restriction was lifted.
A 2009 law requires developments that convert from age-restricted to non-age-restricted to set aside units for affordable housing. Of the 58 units now approved, 20 percent must be affordable under the law, including six units reserved for low-income residents and six for moderate-income residents.
Opponents of the change at Absecon Gardens have been careful to stress that the affordable-housing requirement did not play much of a role in their fight. It can be argued, though, that such worries are an undercurrent in the heated blowback against the project.
But after the recent ruling, it's time to move on. The building has been built, and it's been an empty shell looming over New Jersey Avenue. The development is a combination of mostly two-bedroom condos and townhouses centrally located in the business district.
Rich Krents, owner of Artistic Photo Shop in Absecon, has said the development is the "key to get more development and more businesses into the downtown. I think the downtown is sitting dormant until the issues are cleared up."
An unfinished shell is the last thing Absecon needs looming over its business district, and business owners know it. As Robert Reid, head of the nonprofit Absecon Business and Commercial Development Corp., said in 2012, "People are attracted to more people. We need to get people on the street again."
The original developer was in bankruptcy before the current developer, Boardwalk Design & Development Inc. of Margate, stepped in. And while owner Anthony Cappuccio's misguided libel lawsuit against opposition group Save Absecon was an unwarranted salvo against free speech, the company has carried forward with its plans despite the uncertainty. Cappuccio cut back on the number of units, down from 76, and is planning to beautify the property.
The market for senior housing changed, and so it simply made sense to allow the plans to change for Absecon Gardens. A failed development in the center of Absecon serves no one.