How do you make a Great Town Even Better?
Beach Haven is a small borough on Long Beach Island with many amenities that make it a popular destination for families. It’s been five years since Hurricane Sandy and its recovery is near complete. Today there are wider beaches, high sand dunes that protect homes, a successfully re-opened Surflight Theatre and houses have been re-built. So WHY should we make try to make Beach Haven Even Better?
Today, unfortunately there are a large number of empty stores and empty lots in the Business District. Buying habits have changed and there are fewer residents living year-round. As with other island communities, nuisance flooding is more frequent. Motivated by the need to address these challenges Beach Haven Borough established in 2017 an Economic Revitalization Team. With the support of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, homeowners, visitors and local businesses were surveyed and interviewed. The following is a summary of the findings presented at an Economic Forum held on December 7, 2017 for homeowners and the business community:
1. Most businesses reported having their best season since Sandy. While sales were up, there as less consumer traffic.
2. There was a change in buying habits with more of an interest in upscale gifts and clothing.
3. There was a change in the consumer base. There were more second homeowners and seasonal renters in the larger homes that have replaced smaller summer cottages and fewer short-term visitors.
4. The second homers and seasonal renters dine out an average of three (3) times per week and everyone surveyed wanted more restaurants. There was a strong preference for more waterfront and outdoor dining.
5. There was strong support for the recently introduced LBI shuttle bus and it is creating an island wide economy and customer base for businesses.
6. LBI and Beach Haven have become a popular wedding destination benefitting a wide range of businesses. A strong need was expressed for more reception venues and places for guests to stay.
7. There was strong support for events, e.g. the Chowderfest. Second homeowners now frequent Beach Haven in the off season creating a weekend economy. There was the recommendation for more events to extend the season, e.g. Octoberfest, Holiday Celebrations, Spring restaurant week etc.
8. The real estate market is strong with 48% of the survey respondents interested in buying either a single family, condominium or duplex residence.
9. While the Historical and Maritime Districts were very popular, respondents noted that the Business District looked tired.
10. Traffic, crowds and a lack of seasonal help for the businesses were identified as issues.
Most of all, people like the small-town feel of Beach Haven; riding bikes, shopping, dining out and just walking around the town. Today Beach Haven’s primary customer base are its homeowners, seasonal renters and visitors over the age of thirty-five and their families.
A great deal of information was collected regarding who is attracted to Beach Haven and LBI: income levels, their ages, family size, primary residence etc. Notable was the absence of young people under the age of twenty-five and visitors from the nearby over-55 retirement communities.
So HOW do you make Beach Haven an even better place to live, work, play and visit?
Using the survey information, Beach Haven and its Economic Revitalization Team will start working on gaining support for the following initiatives in 2018:
· Invite the different Chambers of Commerce, business and non-profit organizations to participate with the Beach Haven Economic Development Team:
a. Planning of Events and Activities
b. Improving Communications
c . Prioritizing Public/Private partnership Community Improvement projects
· Prioritize and Implement the recommendations of the Beach Haven Master Plan
a. Reduce nuisance flooding
b. Streetscape Improvements to the Business District
c. Park Improvements
Establish Economic Redevelopment Zones in the Business and Marine Commercial Districts.
a. Because of higher property values that would be realized in these two districts, there will be significant intermediate and long term higher tax revenues from these properties reducing the tax burden of home owners.
b. Enables Beach Haven to be pro-active in reducing the number of empty stores and vacant lots while being selective in the type of project/business that would receive consideration
c. Enhance the attractiveness of these districts
d. Through the use of short term tax abatements and a relaxation of zoning requirements provide a greater financial return to interest investors.
The survey presentations were outstanding. We thank Brian J. Tyrrell, PH.D. of Stockton University, along with Beach Haven’s consultants Joe Getz and James Maley, for guiding us through this process. With almost 2,300 people and two dozen businesses interviewed or surveyed the data base is very large and has a high level of statistical confidence. The power point presentations along with written reports will be posted on the Resources section of Beach Haven Municipal website www.beachhaven-nj.gov.