August 28, 2005

Three 25-story hotels planned for Wildwood

Nancy Behrans
Artist's rendition of the proposed 25-story Wildwood Beach "WB" hotel. The amped-up DooWop style hotel will offer meeting space, deluxe rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool, retail and restaurant space and a lobby bar.
Staff Writer
WILDWOOD -- Commissioners here have decided that it is time for the city to think big, really big.
They unanimously approved an ordinance last week amending the height requirements in zones 1, 2, and 3, opening the door, and the skies, to the possibility of a 25-story hotel on Atlantic Avenue, the third 25-story behemoth of its kind proposed to fill the city's need for hotel rooms.
Two hotels have already received city approval, and one is in the early planning stages. Each offers a plan for a highly stylized hotel that would offer vacationers and conventioneers first-class amenities and close proximity to the convention center and the sea.
Mayor Ernie Troiano believes the time has come for Wildwood to offer high-rise hotel accommodations.
"All of the other big resorts have these kinds of hotels - Ocean City (Maryland), Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Miami Beach, and the funny thing is we have better beaches than any of them," he said.
The first hotel to receive city approval was the Nouveau Wave Hotel, which would replace the Rio Motel at Rio Grande and Ocean avenues. It has already gone to CAFRA for preliminary review and, according to Troiano, the plans received a positive response from state officials.
The second hotel is known for now as the "WB" or Wildwood Beach, and it is proposed to replace the Oceanic at 4600 Ocean Ave. This one has also received city approval, and is awaiting CAFRA review.
The third concept is for another facility to be built at Spicer and Atlantic. The amendment to the zoning ordinance will allow plans for this hotel to move forward. If plans are approved, it would replace the Binns and Bonita motels.
All of the resort hotels are in a style that could be called DooWop on steroids. The colors are bright. Neon signage is abundant and the forms are unconventional. Each motel is designed with indoor parking on the first five floors and a host of amenities that are not now offered on the island. Each has restaurants, retail space, meeting facilities, indoor pools, ocean views and a variety of rooms and suites. All are hybrids offering about 100 traditional hotel rooms and 160 "condotel" rooms and suites that are privately owned and rented as hotel rooms.
The Nouveau Wave offers a spa, a waterfall and a pool where guests can swim from inside to outside. The proposed "WB" project would offer an enclosed pool that could be opened up in warm weather. The third hotel boasts similar amenities.
Troiano said it was a possibility that the new hotels would be run by a big hotel chain like Marriott or Sheraton.
"We don't know yet. The owners don't know yet," he said.
At the March 23 meeting, Troiano said that the new resorts would help to the fill the island's need for hotel rooms.
"Eighty-four hotels will have gone down by the end of this summer," he said. "Where are people going to stay? We are already booking firemen in Atlantic City this year (for the convention). We are in dire need of rooms."
Clark Doron, of the Morey Organization, spoke in favor of the proposed plans. He noted that a feasibility study that was performed in the initial planning stage of the convention center supported the construction of high-rise hotels.
"The study made it clear," he said. "We are perfectly positioned to compete in the mid-sized convention market with places like Ocean City and Virginia Beach. The study noted that our only problem would be the shortage of first-class hotels."
At a previous meeting John Siciliano, executive director of the Wildwood Convention Center, spoke in favor of the proposed projects. He said that while the convention center is doing well in its traditional weekend and tourist markets, they need to work on mid-week corporate business.
"It is not our position to say that hotels should be of any particular shape or size, but we are in support of any hotel that would attract corporate travelers," he said.
Tony Totah, of the Institute of Coastal Education, expressed concern over the capacity of the islands water and sewage systems to support hotels of this size. He also expressed doubt that the city had a market for these large resort hotels.
"I don't think we are going to see big conventions with four thousand people," he said.
Troiano said that the need for hotel rooms was clear.
"At this point, we need the hotels not just for the convention center but to support the businesses that are here, North Wildwood and the Crest have made a decision to go residential, and we need places for vacationers to stay," he said.
Troiano also noted that the city has studied the impact the hotels might have on the wells and wastewater systems.
He said, "We have three wells drilled and capped for future use and more wastewater capacity than we need.
"It all comes down to what kind of town you want this to be," he said. "We have always b6een a tourist town, a vacation town, not a residential town. If that happens, business on the Boardwalk will suffer. The convention center will suffer, too."