The front door was chained and windows boarded up Tuesday at the former Red Carpet Inn motel in downtown Toms River, within mere hours of the township closing its purchase on the long-troubled property.
Township Administrator Don Guardian said the township paid $3.3 million for the property, which will be paid out of a $4.8 million bond that was approved earlier this year. The remainder of the money will go toward site remediation, demolition and rebuilding bulkheads in the rear of the property in order to protect the downtown area from flooding.
“We are in the process of boarding up the building,” said Guardian on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re locking it up just to make it’s secure, then we’ll go out to bid for the demolition.”
Guardian said due to the building’s proximity to Water Street, crews must inspect the basement of the property to ensure the integrity of the building before it can be demolished – a step that will be taken “as soon as possible.”
As soon as the deal closed Tuesday, crews began boarding up openings where air conditioning units were once located. The front door was chained and padlocked and some doors were, likewise, boarded up and sealed.
The motel property, which has garnered more than 750 calls to police since 2015, is one piece of a larger downtown redevelopment plan that will place more emphasis on the waterfront area. It was formally declared a public nuisance earlier this year after years of seemingly endless police activity involving frequent drug issues, prostitution and other criminal issues.
Mayor Thomas Kelaher and Kartik Patel, the sole managing member of the company that owns the property, each signed the closing documents Tuesday.
“The acquisition of this property is important for a number of reasons,” Kelaher said in a statement. “Not only does it eliminate an eyesore and a Police problem, but it will now enable us to begin our long range plan to redevelop downtown Toms River with new businesses and apartments.”
Alizar Zorojew, executive director of the Downtown Toms River Business Improvement District, praised the purchase and called it the first step of an upgrade in the downtown area.
“This move sends a major signal to businesses, developers, and residents that Toms River is serious about refining its downtown and better utilizing its waterfront,” Zorojew said.
The township has designed a large-scale redevelopment plan for the downtown area, which will be detailed in another report from Toms River Shorebeat this week. For the purposes of the motel, the plan calls for the structure to be part of a pedestrian walkway made up of retail stores, which will connect to the larger downtown area north of Water Street. The plan also includes floodwater management to protect the area. Ultimately, however, crime and public safety issues prompted the council to act decisively to take the property.