By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The developers of a proposed upscale hotel that would reshape the entryway to Sea Isle City’s downtown business district will hold off on the project for another year.
Known as The Ludlam, the all-suite hotel, restaurant and bar complex will take the place of the landmark LaCosta Lounge at the corner of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Landis Avenue.
Although developers Christopher Glancey and Bob Morris originally planned to demolish the LaCosta this fall to begin construction on the new project, they will now hold off until late 2020.
Glancey explained that they still must secure regulatory approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit. It is a critical permit for development projects along the coast.
The rigorous permitting process can take anywhere from nine to 18 months, depending on the size of the project and “how many people are in line ahead of you” seeking CAFRA approval for their developments, Glancey said.
“We’re probably not going to get a CAFRA permit until the spring and will start construction next fall,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
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 they will likely appear before the zoning board sometime over the winter.
In the meantime, the LaCosta Lounge will remain in business for another year. Glancey and Morris purchased the LaCosta for $7.3 million in 2018, giving them ownership of the building 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.
LaCosta is operated by local bar and restaurant owner James Bennett, who holds a lease for the lounge. Glancey said Bennett has been granted a one-year extension on the lease.
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.
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 The Ludlam represents the next generation of development for the high-profile location, the main entryway to the downtown district.
“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,” Glancey said of the project in an interview earlier this year.
The name of the project, though, pays tribute to Sea Isle’s early history. Sea Isle is located on Ludlam Island, which 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.
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.
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.
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.
Other parts of Sea Isle have already been transformed by development projects owned by Glancey and Morris. They specialize in mixed-use projects that combine restaurant or retail space on the first floor with high-end condominiums on the top two stories.
They are best known for their Dunes, Cove and Cape mixed-use developments lining the Landis Avenue corridor in Sea Isle’s Townsends Inlet section.