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Pacific Ave Retail and Seasonal Worker Housing project APPROVED! Developer Confirms Seasonal Only, Buying Parking Lot

Pacific Ave Retail and Seasonal Worker Housing project APPROVED!  Developer Confirms Seasonal Only, Buying Parking Lot
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The “Residences at Pacific” project to bring Wildwood’s Pacific Ave a new building which will offer new first floor retail, and three floors of “student” housing for summer workers, was approved yesterday (Monday Oct 5, 2020), in a late night Planning Board session.  This block is between Lincoln and Shellenger and currently houses the empty Fairview, 2nd St Annies, and M.T. Bottles bars.   This past weekend we brought you the plans in a full video review with a deeper explanation.

I was listening in on Zoom, and at times it was difficult to hear some of discussion.  Key points that I picked up are below, but none of these are solid statements…  I believe a resolution will be put together calling out all of the details

  • In the off-season the residences will be winterized.  A deed restriction was discussed to restrict housing usage to only early spring into the late fall.
  • The developer says they have a signed agreement for a parking lot in the area.  Residents spoke out about the need to have parking for the workers in the residences and the retail stores, and apparently this lot will support them.
  • The developer clearly states the residences will be housing for International summer workers, primarily for the Morey’s Organization which has its main pier 2 blocks away.  The room layout is comparable to a University dorm.  They state these tenants will not have cars as they will work and live in the neighborhood.
  • Significant numbers of bike racks will be provided.
  • The pool (club?) I believe is still in the final plans, and is expected to include a bar service.  There were some suggestions from residents of removing it from the project for additional parking, but that didn’t seem to take hold
  • Two LED digital signs are part of the project.  We called them out in this weekends video and at the time wasn’t sure at the time if they were digital

Public Commentary

There were 8 speakers in the public portion.  It seemed that every speaker was against the project. Just some key aspects I remember.

  • Parking was a big concern.  Where do the residences park, and where do the workers park?  One resident called out the number of workers needed for the residences and pool staff, plus add in retail workers for the stores.  The developer says they will have a second parking lot close by and already are under contract. They also discussed trying to buy the long closed large bank building across the street, but stated the building was in and out of financial distress for 9 years, making the transaction difficult.
  • Behavior of the youthful tenants was brought up multiple times, including the need for security.  The developer states they will have 24 hour security during the full operating season.  Underage drinking and overloading of units was brought up, but it was stated that would be monitored by security.
  • Trash on Pacific Ave:  Commentary on the current state of the Pacific Ave… trash from area shops, and cigarette butts, which a resident felt would increase with this project.
  • Why build new? Can’t we reuse the buildings?
  • The need for housing was questioned.  A resident and property owner stated (paraphrased) “We’ve had no problems finding housing for international workers up to this point.”  The developers and town officials state that there is a lot if inadequate housing for these student workers.  Clearly unsafe conditions, or just substandard living conditions (no air conditioning and people are jammed in), which adds to the need for new housing.  New quality housing would draw workers in, have them return to the Wildwoods, and tell their friends about it the great experience.
  • One gentleman who seemed to own a student worker housing building(s), clearly said this would impact the other housing units when the workers go to the new Pacific Ave project instead (but doesn’t this lend credence to the argument that there is a demand for better housing? Just a thought)
  • Noise disturbances were brought up, specifically for the outdoor pool area.  A resident commented that “The Wood” bar which opened in the area this season, would play loud music, and just general noise… into the night.
  • Only one Pacific Ave business person spoke… well the gentleman said he was soon going to take possession of that abandoned bank property across the street, and he was strongly against this project’s plans.  “If you approve this, will I be able to get approval for a similar project?”.  He didn’t elaborate on his plans for the project.  No other existing business on Pacific (who would presumably benefit from this project), spoke at the meeting.

Additional Planning Board / Developer Comments

Just a few things I remember.   Again at times it was hard to hear (and I thought I was recording the presentation, but I got video without audio!)

  • I believe it was a unanimous approval
  • The overall expectation is that this project will bring a large group of summer residents onto Pacific Ave who who will walk the blocks, shop in the stores, and drive additional shoppers and development in the area.
  • It was called out that all three retail establishments were bars at one time, and they had no special parking.  For decades workers and patrons would drive in.  This new project will include a parking area owned by the project, so it will improve the situation.
  • It was called out that the buildings and area have been suffering for a long time.  15 years or more.   It was stated that it’s clear that for this property, the bars alone don’t work. They all failed, and all three locations are closed.  A related aspect is there is little stopping someone from reopening all three existing bars (if licenses were acquired) and many hundreds of people could flood that area… with no need to designate additional parking.  Again the point from the board member was this new plan accounts for parking.
  • A board member called out his disappointment that none of the other existing businesses on Pacific spoke at the meeting; regardless of being for or against the project.

My Closing

Like everything in life, those who have a problem with something are most motivated to speak out.   Just spend some time listening to Sports talk radio… very few pick up the phone to say “Well. everything is great”, ha!  Heck after every Super Bowl win I can guarantee at the winning team’s local sports talk radio show, the next day multiple fans will find something to complain about!

And I heard some really good points in the public commentary (as well as on Facebook).  The older gentleman speaking about parking for workers was very clear and concise with his argument.  Hopefully the extra parking outweighs the problem he described.

But as I listened and read the comments over at the popular Wildwood 365 Community there was one thing I didn’t hear from the residents…   another solution.  And maybe not a recognition to what this area has historically been used as and zoned for… a retail and entertainment district.

People can’t complain for years about the degraded state of Pacific Avenue, and then when something comes along.. shoot it down with no alternative plan.

And I feel you have to realize what this area is… it’s a walking entertainment district.  The retail and bar segment is not a new use.  Remember the “Las Vegas of the East” moniker from the 50s and 60s?  That was Pacific Ave.  Lined with clubs for decades into the hair metal days of the 80s and 90s.  That doesn’t mean that we automatically just roll with what it was, but there has to be some recognition to what the street has been for 70 years.

There are some awesome bright spots on the street, but let’s face it the overall state needs significant improvement.  The current restaurants and shops are a great start, but a catalyst is needed to take things to the next level.  I am still confused by a Facebook user’s comment to me about the crime in that area so new things shouldn’t be approved… which doesn’t make sense because new things and new uses will change the neighborhood for the better.

Have you been to Times Square in New York?  In the 70s and 80s it was the most crime infested, seedy sex shop area in any city in the world… yet today it’s a number one FAMILY place to visit. A huge tourist destination.  Things can be turned around, but it has to start with ideas.

On that same note…

Across the Delaware River, some of the hottest neighborhoods in Philadelphia are Fishtown and Northern Liberties.  15 years ago no one really wanted to live there.  I have a friend who owned a property in Fishtown and moved out about 12 years ago because the neighborhood was falling apart. Drugs and crime were in the area.  He sold for $70,000.  Then a developer came into the old Schmidt’s Brewery property and built the Piazza… a retail and residential development.  Just a dozen years later the housing prices start at $500,000.  That Piazza project drew in young people, who then went into the old neighborhoods and started rehabbing the old houses, and opening stores.  Soon people were flocking to Northern Liberties and Fishtown.  Have you been through the Fishtown restaurant and bar district now?  Its an exciting, eclectic and fun collection of interesting places, which has now spawned numerous development project.  A true tourist destination.  Maybe I am getting ahead of myself here to think this Pacific Ave project is the catalyst for a full rebirth, but it’s a start.  And Pacific Ave is a tourist destination.

So.. what is your idea for the property and Pacific Ave?

A Comment on the Writer

People get goofy on Facebook and just say crazy things to support their failing argument, and 99% of the time I let it slide.   But one person said to me “aren’t you an investor?”

Ha, I wish.  No I am just a geek who likes finding out about new developments, and sharing it with people.  I have a successful blog in Gloucester County, and now that my wife and are homeowners on the island and spending a lot of time here, I decided to start a second blog.  I’ve tried in other areas (such as Cherry Hill) but learned that with a fulltime day job I need to blog where I live. And for a big part of the year, the Wildwoods are where I live.

My first blog is 42Freeway which in the Gloucester/Camden County area focuses on (new) retail news, road projects, and interesting things to do.   A “commercial development” blog.  I have a knack in my 42Freeway area of figuring things out early, and my 400+ posts can drive a lot of traffic.  Currently sitting at over 1.5 million pageviews in the last 12 months.   And it doesn’t hurt that the ads running on the site pay a little bit of money.

I even caught the attention of Philadelphia’s largest paper, the Inquirer.  Columnist Kevin Riordan wrote a piece on me and my 42Freeway blog “Jersey guy is the driving force behind ’42 Freeway’ and other blogs about roads, retail, and restaurants

Bragging a little.. ha.  But my point of bringing this up is…

I’m just a geek who loves knowing about new things coming into the area.  I am constantly googling things to learn more.  My natural inquisitiveness and pro-development mindset makes me find things out, and that makes me share that with people who have a similar mindset.

I was doing that at 42Freeway, and now that we will be in the Wildwoods a lot…  I am just bringing some of that mindset to the Wildwoods area.  Not really sure of my full Wildwood blogging plans.

Go like my Wildwood blog page… Wild Over the Wildwoods

And of you live in (or travel through) the 42 Freeway area of Gloucester and Camden Counties, go like my 42Freeway page!

For Wildwood Community Group chat, go join the Wildwood 365 Community group

For other news of cool things of the Wildwoods, you can like the Wildwood 365 page!   120,000+ fans can’t be wrong!