A plan to “activate” the Boulevard where the infamous Karma nightclub stands in an increasingly-deteriorated condition was approved unanimously by the Seaside Heights planning board this week.
The nightclub, which also included a restaurant and was prominently featured on MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” will be demolished and replaced by a multi-story mixed-use complex with ultra-modern architecture, retail space and luxury amenities for residents of 38 condominiums with an open rooftop. The video embedded above shows the current condition of the structure. (Note: some ad blockers may interfere with the video player.)
A group of developers behind the project presented a revised case to the board this week, reflecting new heights and a slightly-revised entrance and exit plan. The proposed complex was previously presented to the board, however since Karma falls in a legally-designated redevelopment area, its representatives were required to resubmit their plans for a fresh hearing despite only minor changes from the initial proposal.
The 38-unit residential complex was approved to stand at a height of 52.5 feet, up from 50 feet. An elevator shaft that will take residents to the open rooftop will stand an additional 14-feet above the building beside a bulkhead, making the total height of the building 64 feet, increased from the initially-proposed 60 feet.
“Typically, when you’re looking at a height variance, it’s about the perception of the property and what impact that variance would have,” said project engineer Matthew Wilder. “The reason … is truly driven by a couple of things, especially the height of the retail space.”
Had the building strictly complied with the initial height requirement, the retail shops that would be included in the complex would have lower-than-usual heights, making them less attractive, Wilder said. Additionally, the first-floor parking garage height would have to be lowered, making it a cramped space for vehicles.
“Because the parking garage and the retail are together in terms of the floor plans, and we’re proposing a ten-foot height for the retail [units], we are requesting the variance,” said Wilder. “That really provides a much more desirable design for that space. We don’t want to have retail space that is unsuccessful, and the additional [garage] height does create a more inviting atmosphere and better product from a residential standpoint.”
The building will also include, in another portion of the first floor, an indoor pool.
“We’ll also have a small gym area and sauna room for the guests as well,” architect Jason Hanrahan said. “Going up from there, on the second living level, we’ll have a large storage area, so we will have ample storage for the condos in the space.”
The roof will be left open-air.
“There is no internal amenity space on the roof – just outdoor access, and it allows the people who live there to check out the scene, see the fireworks,” he said. “There is no indoor space, no cooking, things like that.”
Wilder said Ocean County suggested a one-way traffic flow for vehicles entering and exiting the building due to its proximity to public parking, a stipulation to which the developers agreed. The complex will include 54 parking spaces for residents, including 18 spaces with electric vehicle charging access. The building’s parking lot will be for residents only.
Previously, representatives of the developers of the project have said the idea behind the building’s design is to “activate” the Boulevard with a modern mixed-use complex that aesthetically fits in with a larger redevelopment effort along the entire Boulevard corridor.
“We want to create that pedestrian-friendly feel that will activate the Boulevard,” said Hanrahan previously, whose firm, MODE Architects, has been responsible for the design of several high-profile projects up and down the Jersey Shore, including the Ocean Club restaurant and cabana club on the oceanfront. “We’ll condition the space properly, we’ll have proper glazing, and this is intended to be a full year-round building with amenities year-round – not just the summer.”
The property was sold at auction in 2020 after Karma closed its doors amidst a bankruptcy filing by the former owner. The building has been vacant ever since, and will be torn down in anticipation of the new development.
In 2018, Seaside Heights officials sought an injunction to shut down Karma following alleged violations of borough ordinances and state liquor laws. The nightclub, by that time, was already for sale and never reopened. Its heyday occurred late in its existence, when the cast of the hit reality show “Jersey Shore” were filmed partying there in nearly every episode, but after the show’s run ended, the borough was hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy and nightclubs in Seaside Heights began to fall out of favor with partiers. At the same time, the borough doubled down on its efforts to revitalize the Boulevard district, raze vacant buildings and troublesome motels, and attract investors to re-imagine the most visible areas of town.
In recent months, the building has become notably deteriorated and in a poor physical conditions. Demolition is expected to come soon, however, as the developers have their eyes on a 2024 opening.