By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Nine lots that were once the site of a gas manufacturing plant operating in Sea Isle City more than 100 years ago have been sold for $7 million and will be developed for new housing, according to a realtor involved with the sale.
All of the property was sold as one package during an online auction conducted this month by Ten-X Commercial, a national real estate company.
Altogether, the property consists of 1.19 acres in the area of 39th Street and Central Avenue and 40th Street and Central, only about a block and a half from Sea Isle’s downtown business district, Promenade and beaches. The land is residentially zoned for single-family homes or duplexes.
Nick Preuhs, a Sea Isle realtor with Long & Foster who was involved with the sale, said a local development group beat out four other bidders to buy the land. The name of the developer will not be disclosed until the deal closes in a few months, he noted.
“I can’t say who the winning bidder was. They want to keep that private until closing. It is a local development group,” Preuhs said in an interview Tuesday.
Preuhs believes the developer will probably build duplexes to maximize the value of the property.
“They are duplex-size lots,” he said.
The property is comprised of nine full-size residential/multi-family parcels each ranging from 5,500 square feet to 6,050 square feet, except for two lots at 209-211 40th Street that have been combined to measure a total of 11,000 square feet.
“For purposes of development, each parcel can accommodate a two-unit side-by-side townhome or single-family home, ideal for capturing the upswing in residential rental demand now and into 2022. This location is a very popular destination location for travelers, in addition to residents who reside in this market, to enjoy all coastal amenities,” according to the property listing.
Jersey Central Power & Light, the current property owner, received state regulatory approvals to sell the land after the utility company cleaned up contaminates stemming from a gas manufacturing plant that operated in Sea Isle from 1889 to the 1920s.
JCP&L bought the former gas manufacturing plant in 1926 and had the responsibility of remediating the remnants of coal tar and oil that were found in the soil and groundwater, according to a document describing the property sale.
Since 1987, JCP&L has conducted environmental investigations of the site while working on cleanup plans in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the document said.
The cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination opened the door for JCP&L to sell the land.
The largest piece of property included in the sale is a grassy parcel wedged in between existing homes along 40th Street between Central and Cini avenues. It is surrounded by a padlocked chain-link fence.
Another parcel that was part of the package of land is located at the corner of 39th and Central in the shadow of Sea Isle’s municipal water tower. This site also includes a padlocked chain-link fence as well as a sign that says, “Environmental cleanup in progress at this site. Sea Isle City former manufactured gas plant.”
Another smaller parcel that was part of the sale is at the corner of 40th and Central.
Preuhs said the auction was a “cut-and-dry” process that produced a price in line with his expectations.
“That’s right about what I expected,” he said of the $7 million winning bid. “Nine lots is a lot to take on at one time.”
In a shore town where many homes are squeezed into tiny lots, more than an acre of land in Sea Isle represents a significant piece of property.
Separate from the property sale, JCP&L also sold off four homes it owned adjacent to the auctioned property. The homes were once privately owned, but JCP&L purchased them after the discovery of soil contamination stemming from the old gas plant. The contamination has been cleaned up and the homes are considered safe, allowing them to be sold by JCP&L.
They included both units of a duplex at 220 40th Street listed at $1.8 million, both units of a duplex at 214 39th Street listed at $1.7 million, a never-occupied condo unit at 207 40th Street listed at $1.2 million, and two condo units in the same building at 218 39th Street that were listed at $600,000 each.
Preuhs, who was also involved with the sale of the homes, said most of them sold for the list price or close to it. The exception was the condo unit at 207 40th Street, which attracted a bidding war and was sold above the asking price, he noted.
All of the homes were priced at under-market value, Preuhs said.
The homes hit the market at a time when Sea Isle’s real estate has been hot. Reflecting a boom fueled by low mortgage rates, a surging stock market before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the shore being seen as a safe haven from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sea Isle has now become a million-dollar housing market.
The median sale price for homes in Sea Isle has jumped well above $1 million and shows no signs of significantly slowing down because demand is high and inventory is low, realtors say.