By Donald Wittkowski
Known for its no-frills atmosphere, there is nothing palatial about the Springfield Inn, except for its sale price.
The storied nightclub in Sea Isle City is on the market for $6.7 million as part of a redevelopment plan that would see the old building replaced with a new restaurant and upscale condominiums.
The value of the Springfield Inn is its prime, beachfront location at the corner of 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle that has a liquor license, said Russ Menk, the real estate broker handling the sale.
“The fact that it is the only liquor license on the beach is very big,” Menk said in an interview Sunday. “It’s all about location, location, location.”
The Springfield, a throwback bar with shabby chic interior, has possessed a special allure for legions of casually dressed customers ever since it opened in 1972 under the ownership of the Bisciotti family. Sisters Betsy Cooney, Terry Eidenberg and Joanne Bisciotti have followed their parents, Joe and Liz Bisciotti, as the Springfield’s owners.
But the proposed sale signals that the Springfield’s days are numbered. The property is being marketed as the future site of a three-story complex containing a restaurant, some retail space and 13 condos.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to say goodbye to it,” Menk said of the old Springfield.
Architectural renderings included with the Springfield’s listing by Menk’s firm, Arrow Real Estate Services of Doylestown, Pa., give a glimpse of the proposed development project.
The renderings depict a restaurant on the ground level. There would also be a beachfront bar. The top two floors would be occupied by condos featuring their own terraces.
Sea Isle’s Planning Board approved the development project last year. All major regulatory permits for the project have already been obtained, according to the sale listing.
Menk noted that the property is being pitched to a combination of restaurant operators and developers that could build the condos and the eatery.
He said he didn’t know whether the Springfield would reopen for the 2018 summer tourism season is a sale does not go through by then.
“We’ve had some offers, but they were not satisfactory to the owners,” he said.
In its current iteration, the Springfield includes a nightclub and the outdoor Carousel Bar, a casual watering hole adjacent to the city’s oceanfront Promenade walkway. Popular with crowds that come right off the beach, the Springfield is known for its unadorned surroundings.
The Springfield’s coveted beachfront location makes it a strong candidate for redevelopment. It may be the latest local establishment to capitalize on a 2008 change in the city’s zoning law that allows businesses to rebuild commercial properties while adding more residential space.
The idea behind the zoning change was to encourage businesses to stay put in town, instead of seeing them disappear to make room for even more housing. The mixed-use projects include commercial establishments such as bars, restaurants and retail shops operating on the street level, while the top floors feature condos or apartments.
Mixed-use projects are reshaping Sea Isle’s sleepy Townsends Inlet section with new retail, restaurant and residential attractions built by development partners Christopher Glancey and Bob Morris.
In 2016, Glancey and Morris celebrated the grand opening of their trendy Dunes restaurant, banquet and condo complex on Landis Avenue between 86th and 87th streets.
Glancey and Morris are currently developing two other projects on Landis Avenue, near the Dunes, that will combine upscale retail, restaurant and condo space. A Blitz’s grocery market, scheduled to open this spring, will be the commercial anchor of one of the buildings.
Now, it appears the mixed-use development trend is poised to spread to other parts of Sea Isle, including the Springfield Inn site.
The Lobster Loft restaurant, a fixture of Sea Isle’s dining scene for decades in the historic Fish Alley neighborhood, is being marketed as a potential redevelopment site as part of its proposed $2.5 million sale.
A listing for the Lobster Loft on the commercial real estate website LoopNet mentions the possibility of a combination condo-restaurant project being built on the bayfront property on 42nd Place. The listing says plans are available for a proposed waterfront restaurant and bar, eight boat slips and eight condos in a three-story complex.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio said the proposed sale of some of the town’s best-known businesses reflects the hot real estate market. Sea Isle is attractive to investors right now primarily because of the city’s low tax structure, a strong demand for vacation homes at the shore and the steep discounts that are available on flood insurance for local homes and businesses, he said.
“Sea Isle’s real estate market is exceptionally strong now,” Desiderio said. “We’re going in the right direction.”