By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
An investment group buying the Springfield Inn is waiting for approval of a key state environmental permit before it moves ahead with plans to redevelop the site into a new restaurant, banquet and bar complex, a real estate agent said Sunday.
The old nightclub, a throwback to the early 1970s, closed on Sept. 21 during a blowout final farewell party attended by hundreds of customers and is now awaiting demolition to make room for the new project.
The Springfield’s coveted beachfront location at 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue makes it a prime candidate for redevelopment. It is the only beachfront business in Sea Isle City that has a liquor license.
Janet DeLorenzo, a real estate agent representing the Springfield’s buyers, said demolition will begin shortly after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection approves a revised Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit for the project.
Although CAFRA approval was already granted for the Springfield’s original redevelopment plan, the investors have changed the project and now must wait for the DEP to sign off on a modified permit, she said.
The DEP has not yet indicated when the permit will be issued, but the investors are hoping that it will be in a month or two, according to DeLorenzo.
Originally, the plans called for construction of 13 upscale condominiums on the top two floors of a three-story building that would also contain a restaurant and outdoor bar on the ground level.
The investment group, however, has dropped the number of condos to four and now plans to build a 274-seat banquet hall on the second floor. The proposed restaurant and outdoor bar still remain part of the project.
In a nod to the Springfield Inn’s nearly 50-year history, the buyers want to preserve the iconic name by retaining it when the property is redeveloped into a new bar and 166-seat restaurant, Sea Isle planning board documents indicate. They also plan to keep the name of the Springfield’s popular outdoor Carousel Bar.
Barring any major delays with the CAFRA permit, there is a chance that the beachfront Carousel Bar could be resurrected – in a new version – in time for the 2020 summer season, DeLorenzo said.
“The Carousel Bar may be open by next summer. A lot of people are asking to do that,” she said in an interview.
Construction of the restaurant, banquet facility and condos that are the main part of the project is expected to take around 10 or 11 months. DeLorenzo said there is still some hope that the entire complex could open by late 2020.
“They are steadily moving ahead. They are crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” she said of the investors.
The new group taking ownership of the Springfield Inn is called HKM43 LLC. It is an acronym for the initials of the last names of the new owners as well as a reference to the Springfield’s location on 43rd Street.
The three investors will each own a 33.3 percent stake, planning board documents show. They include Brian Halligan, of Flourtown, Pa., John Krinis, of Glenside, Pa., and Chris Myers, of Blue Bell, Pa.
Halligan is the owner and managing partner of MEH Investments, a company that has developed commercial, residential and apartment projects in the Philadelphia area.
Sea Isle’s planning board gave the Springfield’s redevelopment project approval in September. Addressing concerns about possible parking shortages, the investors told the board that there are plans to offer valet parking and they are also in talks with other businesses to utilize their parking facilities.
Springfield Inn was on the market for more than a year for $6.7 million. It has not yet been disclosed how much the new buyers are paying. The deal will not be finalized until after the CAFRA permit is issued, DeLorenzo said.
The Springfield 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.