Demolition set to start on a rusting steel eyesore of the Jersey Shore

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Seaside Heights today will begin demolishing a rusting four-story steel framework that for more than a decade has thumbed its nose at the wild and woolly shore resort’s effort to remake itself as a more upscale destination for tourists and year-round residents, the mayor said.

The Borough Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Monday at 9:30 a.m., when Mayor Anthony Vaz said he will sign a permit for demolition of the structure, which looms over a 0.6-acre lot along The Boulevard, a north-south thoroughfare that runs down the center of the narrow borough, between Webster and Hamilton Avenues.

“We’ve got to get this project off the books,” Vaz said, referring to the stalled mixed-use project originally planned for the site.

The project had been envisioned as a commercial and residential complex by local businessman Vincent Craparotta, who owns Hemmingway’s, a popular Seaside Heights nightspot a couple of blocks up the Boulevard from the rusting assemblage of I-beams now slated for demolition.

Craparotta began the project in the late 2000′s, but progress stalled with the Great Recession of 2008, and nothing became of it. Eventually, the council exercised its power of eminent domain and declared the area in need of redevelopment, condemning the lot and offering Craparotta the $1.8 million that an appraiser for the borough set as its value. As is standard in eminent domain cases, Craparotta has contested the borough’s appraisal as too low, and the case is pending in Superior Court.

In May, the council named a group of investors going by the name SSH Boulevard, LLC, as the redevelopment site’s designated developer, passing over a renewed proposal by Craprarotta. Craparotta did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

The move to remove the oxidizing steel structure is the latest in an ongoing campaign by Vaz, assisted by his son, Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz, to burnish Seaside Heights image, following decades known as a low-brow haven for debauchery exemplified and amplified by the “Jersey Shore” reality t.v. series, which used the borough as its principal location.

The borough also has plans to redevelop a neighboring vacant lot along The Boulevard, just across Hamilton Avenue from the steel structure, which was formerly occupied by the Merge nightclub.
The base of a steel structure in Seaside Heights

The base of a steel framework on The Boulevard in Seaside Heights, where work on a residential project stalled years ago. (Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media)

A story in The Asbury Park Press identified the SSH Bouldevard principals as a group of politically connected Republicans who include Dan Matarese of Dan Matarese of Danco General Contracting Inc. in Marlboro; lawyer and former state GOP chairman Douglas Steinhardt; and Joanne Gilmore, wife of the former Ocean County GOP chairman and convicted tax evader, George Gilmore. They and other principals of SSH Boulevard either did not respond to requests for comment or could not be reached on Saturday.

At this Monday’s meeting, the Borough Council is scheduled to vote on an extension of SSH Boulevard’s status as the designated developer of what are known on borough tax maps as Block 5.01, Lots 58, 59 and 63, according to a legal advertisement for the meeting.

Vaz said SSH Boulevard would present its vision for the site’s redevelopment on Monday. Vaz said Monday’s action by the council at the municipal building on The Boulevard, followed by his related authorization of the permit allowing SSH Boulevard to demolish the steel framework, and then the start of the demolition itself will unfold in rapid succession.

“It’s a 3-minute council meeting approving the demolition,” Vaz said. “I sign off on it as mayor. We walk to the site, which is a minute and a half, and they start knocking it down.”

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