By JOHN T. WARD
Years in the talking, the transformation of Sea Bright’s dowdy oceanfront into a moneymaker complete with a pool club and restaurant could begin early next year, officials say.
But first, the borough council is awaiting the results of an analysis aimed at gauging the appeal of the project to businesses its meant to lure.
Members of the council voted last week to table a pair of bond ordinances that expected to raise $2.85 million for the development of the municipal beach between the Chapel Beach Club to the north and the abbreviated boardwalk opposite to the south after borough CFO Michael Bascom suggested a market analysis and business plan.
“While we’re confident it’s a good plan,” he said, the analysis should be conducted “to be sure it can sure it can support the debt service” on the bonds.
“It’s important that we know that there’s a market for what we want to develop,” he said.
The analysis, by Bascom, is expected to take up to 90 days.
Just what the project will look like is still in flux. Council members received the concept illustrations that go with this article after their meeting Tuesday night and have not discussed them, town officials emphasized.
But the general plan calls for the redevelopment of the 20.5-acre beachfront along the municipal parking lot between the free-standing public library and the firehouse, as well as the vacant lot of the long-vanished Peninsula House Hotel. it would include an extended boardwalk, an oceanfront restaurant and a pool club with lockers.
New facilities to replace the existing beach office, which Mayor Dina Long calls “dangerous,” are also anticipated. The space is used by lifeguards and other municipal employees.
Councilman Brian Kelly, who heads the council committee overseeing the plan, says redevelopment has been under discussion since before he joined the governing body in 2004.
“It’s been a long, slow process,” he said.
Kelly said the council’s goal is to have the plan finalized, approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, and funded for construction by early 2013..
“Sea Bright has been of poised at the edge of progress in kind of changing how our town looks for a long time,” Mayor Dina Long tells redbankgreen. “That’s finally about to happen. The challenge is going to be making the numbers work.”
With interest rates low, now’s a good time to finance the project, she said.
The site may also be home to a cell tower that town officials hope to see built to eliminate chronic dead spots in cellular service, Kelly said.