SEA ISLE CITY — The center of town is set for a major change with the approval of a four-story, 46-room hotel at JFK Boulevard and Landis Avenue.

The building, to be known as The Ludlam, will include restaurants and bars on the first floor and rooms above, said Christopher Glancey, one of the developers. The project will take up most of the block, replacing La Costa Lounge, the Coast Motel, and Casino Steak and Pizza.

On Feb. 3, members of the city Zoning Board gave site plan approval and approved variances for the project. At a special meeting Jan. 21, the board heard hours of testimony on the proposal, including from residents opposed to the project. The board adjourned that meeting at close to midnight after hours of testimony and took up the application again last week.

Construction is set to begin in the fall, Glancey said, with work continuing through summer 2021 and an expected completion by June 2022. The existing businesses will remain open this summer, he said. Glancey and business partner Bob Morris purchased the property in 2018 for a reported price of $7.3 million from Anthony and Nick Giampietro.

Glancey declined to give an estimate of how much the construction project will cost, though he said it will be in the millions of dollars.

“It’s a big project,” he said, at about an acre of property.

Some believe it to be too big.

“I think the neighborhood in general thought it was just too big for that site,” said Vincent Orlando, an engineer hired as an expert witness by neighbors in opposition to the plan. He said they did not object to plans for a new hotel, only the size.

At both meetings, residents criticized the scale of the project, but not every speaker was opposed to the planned development. Some argued Sea Isle has plenty of houses for rent but few hotel units.

“It’s something that’s severely needed in this town for the sake of the businesses,” said resident John Fee, a Realtor and member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Business owner Stephen DeCredico said the project would be good for the future of the city.

“I find no negative to improving the business climate of the island,” he told the board. “The project, in my opinion, is a positive for me as a business owner, for me as a property owner and for the town as a whole to bring high-end clientele to this island.”

Plans call for the hotel units to range from single rooms to three-bedroom suites, and for 20 of those to have a kitchen, an element of the proposal that also required a variance.

Orlando contended the plans did not provide enough parking, especially if the multiroom suites will have room to sleep 10 and there are restaurants, banquet facilities and bars on the property. But the applicants argued the plans meet the requirements under the ordinance, with one parking space per hotel unit.

Glancey said he and his partner incorporated suggestions from neighbors into the final design and worked with board members in developing the project. He said that included three work session meetings before requesting site plan approval.

“In these processes, there are always give-and-takes,” he said.

“I think they’re trying to do something that will be a very attractive unit,” board member Patricia Urbaczewski said. “What is there now is horrendous. It’s not attractive.”

The board voted 4-1 in favor of allowing the kitchen facilities and was unanimous for the site plan.

The site is close to the beach and the city’s Promenade, and around the corner from Excursion Park, which features an amphitheater and numerous events and movie nights in the summer.

The location is one aspect that drew Glancey to the site, he said, adding it’s also difficult to find a large parcel to develop on the barrier islands.

The existing buildings date to the 1970s, he said, describing his planned project as a major improvement for one of the busiest sections of the beach town.

The project is across the street from Diamond Liquors, which Glancey owns. He and Morris also built The Dunes, a block-long condominium, restaurant and event hall near Townsends Inlet on the site of the former Busch’s Seafood.

The partners also bought the Impala Island Inn in Ocean City and are nearing completion of an expansion of that beach-block motel to be called the Impala Suites on the site of a former storage building on the north side of 10th Street, across from the existing property.

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