Work at Three Ship Bottom Commercial Sites at LBI Gateway in Progress

Feb 07, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Three redevelopment projects along the entrance corridor to Long Beach Island, stretching all the way from the base of the Causeway to the Atlantic Ocean in a borough that isn’t even 2 square miles, promise to redefine the look and feel of Ship Bottom.

Although the full scope of plans for the 100-room Drifting Sands Motel on the oceanfront block at Eighth Street is still actively being considered, guest suites are being updated, according to Rafael Correa, chief financial officer of Blue Water Development, the Ocean City, Md.-based firm that purchased the hotel last summer for $12.5 million.

“Right now, we’re reinvigorating the (interior) space. We have a certain standard we’re proud of so we’re going to sit tight and learn more about the market,” he said. “One of the things we do is look at local architecture. Our goal is not to stand out. We want to complement the local landscape.”

Correa said the company’s Bethany Beach Ocean Suites in Bethany Beach, Del., is an example of how the company seamlessly blended changes it made to fit the look and feel of the resort community. That 112-suite oceanfront hotel, located on the boardwalk and overlooking the ocean, is a Marriott Residence Inn.

“It’s a mini Ship Bottom. They were very concerned about it looking like a coastal property,” he said of the small coastal town on Delaware’s eastern shore, adding, “We feel a responsibility to Ship Bottom as the entrance to the Island. We need to do the right thing; we’ve got to do the right thing.”

Deciding what that looks like, not just for the company but for the community, takes time. In October, when the company and local architect Jeffrey Wells made an informal presentation before the Ship Bottom Land Use Board, there was discussion of making exterior changes to improve the overall aesthetic of the property.

“We’re not doing the façade,” Correa said last week, at least for now.

One of the first things the company recognized about the area is that there are plenty of rental homes in the market, and “room for a nice, high- to mid-scale hotel with beach access,” he said.

Ship Bottom, and all of Long Beach Island, like other resort communities where the company has hotels, is a destination where individuals and families return every year, he said.

“Generational trips turn into life events,” he said, noting that is the second area the company recognized that could use a boost in wedding venues and accommodations.

Whether the company stays with the existing structures or decides on a total redevelopment of the site, Correa said, the company is excited to be a part of the Ship Bottom community, and to cross market Drifting Sands to its existing customers, introducing new people to life on a sandbar, New Jersey-style.

Meanwhile, recent arctic temperatures and the January blizzard may have slowed down progress at the sites of the former State Room and the vacant Exxon gas station at the Circle, but work on both projects is underway. The site of the former State Room, located between Eight and Ninth streets at the entrance to the Island, is slated to become the largest commercial building on LBI. The future 105-room Hotel LBI, with a height of 45 feet, will be the tallest in Ship Bottom.

Like Hotel LBI, The Arlington Beach Club will be located between Eighth and Ninth streets in Ship Bottom. The project consists of two three-story buildings with 12 condo units each joined by a courtyard and a pool area. It will be bordered by Long Beach Boulevard to the east and Central Avenue to the west. The Causeway Circle will be reconfigured as a square once the state Department of Transportation completes its $350 million bridge project, slated tentatively for the summer of 2020, though the end date is predicated on weather and other outside factors.

The DOT’s proposed improvements in Ship Bottom include converting a section of Long Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare on the Island, into a two-way road at the site of The Arlington Beach Club, according to state officials.

— Gina G. Scala




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