WEST OCEAN CITY — The ever-changing West Ocean City landscape could soon get a major new addition after county planners on Thursday approved a site plan for a mixed-use retail and restaurant center with an office complex included in a later phase for a property along Route 50.
The Worcester County Planning Commission on Thursday approved a site plan for the retail complex on the south side of Route 50 just west of Elm Street in West Ocean City. The roughly three-acre site is currently home to the Sea Isle Motel, which has occupied the location for decades.
TJSF LLC’s Todd and Jill Ferrante are the developers of the project after purchasing the property nearly two years ago. Retail stores and an as-yet-unnamed restaurant operation are planned for the project. Although there are no leases in place, the owners hinted on Thursday the development would feature popular stores currently operating in Ocean City.
The second phase of the proposed redevelopment of the old Sea Isle Motel site would be office space, although no tenants have been identified nor has a firm timetable for construction been established. With the county planning commission site plan approval on Thursday, however, an ambitious schedule is now set in motion for the retail component closest to Route 50.
The developers said demolition of the old Sea Isle Motel could begin as soon as this March with construction on the first phase likely carrying over into next fall.
There is an existing fairly new motel to the west of the property. To the east is another retail complex that includes the Carrabba’s restaurant and a Sunsations. Attorney Mark Cropper, who represents the developer, told the planning commission the proposed project was designed to fit in nicely with the existing neighborhood.
“Our goal is a mixed-use retail project with some restaurant space,” he said. “Something that fits the fabric of that neighborhood.”
The developers, along with Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture and survey and engineering firm Parker Associates, satisfied the planning commission that many of the issues regarding stormwater management, parking requirements, signage and lighting, landscaping and pedestrian access had been addressed. The developers did ask for five different waivers, each of which was minor in nature, which the planning commission endorsed as a condition of the site plan approval.
Because of the property’s unique shape with a narrow frontage on Route 50, but a deep boundary line to the back, some minor concessions were made to accommodate the development. Cropper said the developer stayed true to the county’s design guidelines for Route 50.
“It’s a very attractive building,” he said. “They have clearly interpreted the goals of the design guidelines with this project.”
The Sea Isle Motel was built in the 1960s and was owned for years by the Trimper family, which most recently operated the motel as housing for summer employees. The Ferrantes acquired the property in June 2013 and have operated it in the interim as summer housing before launching their new development proposal.