By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Developer Craig Rankin is bringing a new waterfront attraction to Sea Isle City’s historic Fish Alley neighborhood, but even he isn’t sure what exactly it will be yet.
The mixed-use project will combine commercial space with two luxury condominiums on top in a three-story building on 42nd Place next door to the Oar House Pub.
However, Rankin said he has not yet decided whether the commercial space will be retail shops, offices or possibly a restaurant.
“I just have to decide the best fit for the project and my use as well,” he said in an interview.
He noted that he has already been talking to potential restaurant operators. The restaurant would occupy the entire first floor of the building if he goes that route instead of placing offices or retail shops there, he said.
He mentioned the potential of a restaurant having outside dining overlooking the lagoon along 42nd Place.
Whatever eventually occupies the commercial portion of the building, Rankin assured that it would be a nice addition to the Fish Alley neighborhood, an enclave of family-owned restaurants and fishing boats rooted in Sea Isle’s early history as a small commercial seaport.
“It will be something to draw people to that area. It’s a great area,” he said.
Rankin’s project received unanimous approval Monday night from the city’s Planning Board. Construction is expected to start this winter and be completed by mid-summer 2024, Rankin said.
City Councilman Frank Edwardi, who sits on the Planning Board, called Rankin’s project the type of development Sea Isle envisioned when it changed its zoning laws in 2008 to encourage mixed-use construction.
“That’s why we put the ordinance in place 15 years ago to increase the ratables in town, preserve our commercial zones and also put mixed-use projects in town,” Edwardi said.
In recent years, a number of mixed-use projects have been built in Sea Isle, combining commercial space such as restaurants and retail shops on the first floor with condos on the top two stories.
Rankin’s plan for two luxury condos on the top two floors of his building fits in with Sea Isle’s growing trend for upscale housing.
Rankin is well-known in Sea Isle as the owner of the CP Rankin roofing and property services company, which has 15 offices across the country. He noted that he has been involved in a number of residential and commercial roofing projects in Sea Isle, including the Ludlam Hotel and the parish auditorium at St. Joseph Catholic Church, to name a few.
He is originally from Northeast Philadelphia and graduated from Father Judge High School in Philadelphia. He has owned a summer vacation home in Sea Isle for more than 15 years and maintains a local office for his roofing company on Landis Avenue.
His development site at 310 42nd Place is currently a vacant lot surrounded by a high fence. Rankin said the fence is strictly a security precaution to prevent people from trespassing on the property and possibly jumping into the lagoon and getting injured.
Previously, Rankin leased the property to the Oar House Pub next door for an outdoor bar overlooking the lagoon. Rankin said he did not have a partnership with Oar House owner James Bennett for the outdoor bar and that there will be no tie-ins between the Oar House and the new mixed-use project once it is completed.
According to Planning Board documents, Rankin’s development will include four on-site parking spaces planned in the front yard area. The project would also include landscaping and drainage improvements, improvements to the existing bulkhead and improvements to the existing decking, the documents show.
“We’re very excited about the project. We’re very excited to enhance Fish Alley, Rankin said.