Surflight Theatre Site Gets Redevelopment Designation

Apr 25, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven.

The Surflight Theatre property in Beach Haven has been targeted as an area for redevelopment, according to an ordinance introduced by the borough council at an agenda meeting last week.

After being shuttered for more than two years since declaring bankruptcy, the theater reopened last summer under the leadership of new owner Al Parinello, a veteran New York producer, and returning producing artistic director Steve Steiner.

“While the Surflight is back in operation, the fact that it was closed is a cause for concern for the future of that property,” said James Maley, an attorney who specializes in redevelopment law and serves as a consultant to the borough.

He said the ordinance does not propose any specific changes to the Engleside Avenue tract, but agrees that the area is in need of redevelopment. To qualify for redevelopment status, Maley said the site had to meet one or more statutory conditions or requirements. One condition was that there is “a growing lack or total lack of proper utilization of areas caused by condition of the title, diverse ownership of the real properties therein or other similar conditions which impede land assemblage or discourage the undertaking of improvements, resulting in a stagnant and unproductive condition of land potentially useful and valuable for contributing to and serving the public health, safety and welfare.”

He said redevelopment status also looks to stimulate private investment and foster public-private partnerships to “accomplish revitalization of the area in a manner that best serves the needs of the community, strengthens the local economy and attracts residents to the area and contributes to the continuing vitality of Beach Haven.” 

Sherry Mason, borough manager/clerk, said the redevelopment designation will give the borough better control over what is built in that area. She said any developer or builder interested in the property in that district would first discuss plans with the council, which would then forward it to the land use board for recommendations.

“This would prevent someone from building a monstrosity there,” she said.  

Another ordinance designates the old Beach Haven bank building for redevelopment. Recently, partners Terry Moeller and Tom and Joan Bertussi announced plans to demolish the structure and turn it into a retail/residential complex. Located at the corner of Bay Avenue and Sixth Street, the complex would contain 22 residential units, each covering 1,200 square feet. Five apartments would be set aside for affordable housing. Combined residential and retail square footage will be approximately 54,000 square feet.

Built in 1963 as the headquarters for the old Beach Haven National Bank, the brick structure has been mostly vacant since Superstorm Sandy. The only current occupant of the building is the U.S. Post Office, which the partners say would remain in the new complex.

“By designating the bank building for redevelopment, the process of getting approvals from the land use board will be facilitated,” said Maley.

Public hearings on both ordinances are scheduled for the next council meeting, on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m. 

— Eric Englund

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