By Donald Wittkowski
The developers of the proposed Ludlam Hotel in Sea Isle City have unveiled an architectural rendering of the project, giving the public the first peek at what will become a new centerpiece attraction for the main gateway into the beach resort.
The Ludlam will replace the 50-year-old LaCosta Lounge and represents the next wave of development for a prime spot that has been occupied by some of Sea Isle’s most historic and iconic businesses dating to the 1800s.
“It’s the gateway to the city. It’s one of the first things you see coming into town over the bridge. This will go a long way to enhance the beautification into town,” developer Christopher Glancey said of the project.
Glancey announced plans for the Ludlam shortly after he and his business partner, Bob Morris, bought the LaCosta Lounge for $7.3 million in 2018. The site is at the corner of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Landis Avenue, the entryway to the downtown business district.
As they prepare to start construction either late this year or in early 2020, Glancey and Morris are showing off the designs and discussing the benefits of the project to Sea Isle’s business community and tourism industry. A grand opening is targeted for the summer of 2021.
“I think one of the greatest things of having a hotel in the center of town is that it will introduce more people to Sea Isle. They will explore the island and come back,” Glancey said off how he believes the hotel will boost tourism.
The Ludlam will include a 46-suite hotel, a restaurant off the lobby and a casual outdoor bar overlooking Landis Avenue. Hotel guests will be able to enjoy drinks at an outdoor pool and bar on the second floor. The project will also feature banquet space for special events such as weddings.
“One of the main goals to drive business in the center of town in the off-season is weddings,” Glancey noted.
There will be a total of 95 parking spaces to serve the entire complex, more than the minimum requirement of 84 spaces for a project this size, Glancey said.
LaCosta’s purchase by Glancey and Morris gives them ownership of the lounge as well as the Coast Motel, the Casino Pizzeria and a parking lot that are also part of the 1.25-acre complex. All of the existing structures will be demolished to create room for the new project.
Over the years, LaCosta has established a reputation as one of the best-known bars at the Jersey Shore. The old-school nightclub has hosted multiple generations of party-goers in the past 50 years. This is expected to be LaCosta’s last summer.
When it opened in the 1960s, the LaCosta was built on the same spot where some of Sea Isle’s most historic businesses once stood, including the former Bellevue Hotel and Cronecker’s Hotel & Restaurant dating to the late 1800s.
Glancey said it is time for the next generation of development for the high-profile location. He thinks the Ludlam will blend in with the remaining historic businesses, giving Sea Isle a mix of both new and classic tourist attractions.
“I agree that all of these towns need to have classic, iconic properties that are well kept,” he said of the Jersey Shore. “But they also need an infusion of new properties to get people to keep coming back.”
Glancey has been circulating fliers that tout the benefits of the Ludlam for the surrounding neighborhood and business district. He said he wants to be proactive in keeping the neighbors informed about the project.
Benefits include better parking, improved drainage for stormwater runoff, and a modern building that meets all safety and construction codes and is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the flier. It also says there will be less noise and traffic once the LaCosta nightclub and its liquor store are gone.
The Ludlam promises to bring a new level of upscale lodging to Sea Isle. Glancey cited statistics from the American Hotel & Lodging Association that note that for every $100 that hotel guests spend in lodging, they spend an additional $220 in the local community for such things as food, beverage, transportation and retail shopping.
Glancey said the hotel’s target market will be families that spend a few days in Sea Isle on vacation.
“Having a family stay in a suite for three or four days is something we don’t have in Sea Isle now,” he said.
The name of the development pays tribute to Ludlam Island, the barrier island where Sea Isle is located. Ludlam Island was named after Joseph Ludlam, who bought the land in the late 17th century and used it to graze cows and sheep before Sea Isle City was founded as a beach resort in 1882 by developer Charles K. Landis.
As the project moves along, the next step calls for Glancey and Morris to present their plans to the Sea Isle Zoning Board for approvals. They are seeking two main zoning variances – one to slightly exceed the maximum building height of 40 feet and the other to include extra signage on the property.
Glancey said multiple workshop sessions have already been held with zoning board representatives to outline the scope of the project. He anticipates appearing before the board in the fall for a public hearing on his application for the zoning variances.
“It’s not only a big project, but such an important project for the city that we need to take our time and do it right,” Glancey said.
Glancey and Morris are already well-known in Sea Isle for their combination commercial-residential projects that have transformed the city’s Townsends Inlet section. Their Dunes, Cove and Cape developments lining the Landis Avenue corridor in Townsends Inlet feature restaurant or retail space on the first floor and upscale condominiums on the top two stories.
“Change is always difficult for people. But towns do change. We need to provide this project for the town. It’s something the town needs,” Glancey said of the Ludlam. “Bob and I have been coming to Sea Isle for all of our lives. We wouldn’t do something if we didn’t believe it was going to be good for the community.”