History of the Polar Bear Plunge

The Polar Bear Plunge, arguably Sea Isle’s most famous event of the year, is set to take place on Saturday, February 14. It’s an event filled with wacky costumes, live music, and tons of fun. The plunge is a great event for the town of Sea Isle. For one, it gets thousands of people down the shore in the off-season to kick their winter blues, and all proceeds benefit city wide events sponsored by the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization. But have you ever wondered about the history behind the Plunge? Why do thousands of people flock to the beach in frigid temperatures to take a dip in the freezing water? Well, it begins back in 1995 with one woman’s vision.

Plunge History

It all started when a member of the Tourism Commission of Sea Isle, Dr. Irene Jameson, decided that a February plunge could be a way to boost tourism in the normally desolate winter months down the shore. In February 1995, Irene and a small group of family, friends, and tourism officials took the plunge in 35 degree water in front of a small crowd of spectators. Afterwards, they went to LaCosta to grab a beer and keep warm!

Every year since the original plunge, the crowds got larger and larger, and costumes eventually became a staple. Starting at the age of 70 in 1995, Irene took the plunge every year until 2007. Now, the designated “Polar Bear Queen” is an enthusiastic spectator. The event, which attracts thousands of tourists each year, continues the tradition of warming yourself afterwards with a beer at LaCosta. Now, there’s tons of live music and entertainment to be had.

Make sure to sign up for this year’s plunge, and register at this site to reserve your space for the plunge today!

Sources: Seaisletimes.com and NJ.com

Beach Replenishment Update

I’ve previously written about the Beach Replenishment project that is taking place in Ocean City and Sea Isle City in these posts, but there have been further developments on the topic as of late.

A Quick Recap

Hurricane Sandy and other major storms have caused significant erosion along the east coast shoreline – but we’re specifically focused on the South Jersey shores beaches, between Ocean City and Strathmere. While local government and residents have had a major part in helping to fix the problem, The Army Corps have spent years putting together a proposal for beach replenishment and the project is finally federally funded and ready to begin in 2015.

A Brief Timeline of the Beach Replenishment Project

2007 – US Army Corps Project authorized – funding not in place

October 2012 – Hurricane Sandy

January 2013 – Funding Received when Congress enacted the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act

October/November 2014 – Bids for the project took place and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. of Illinois had the lowest bid of $58 million.

January 2015 – US Army Corps meet in Corson’s Inlet – decide to start project in early Spring 2015 despite Piping Plover Nesting.

The Latest Update

The project has been pushed back several times, but there was some progress made earlier this month. Originally slated to begin Fall 2015, The US Army Corps of Engineers, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Upper Township met in Corson’s Inlet earlier this month and decided, despite the known nesting ground for the piping plover, the severe erosion needed to be dealt with – the sooner the better. Normally, beachfill operations of any kind are prohibited at plover nesting grounds between March and September. While they are granting an exception to the rule, the beach will be monitored during the beach replenishment process to ensure that no plover nests are disrupted.
Source: US Army Corps of Engineers

Sea Isle/Strathmere beach replenishment will begin in April, with dunes constructed that are approximately 15 feet in elevation and a 50 foot wide beach, which will require at least 2.6 million cubic yards of sand.

Ocean City’s beach replenishment will begin in May. Construction will take place from 34th Street to 59th Street, building a dune 13 feet above sea level and a beach 100 feet wide, requiring a minimum of 1.6 million cubic yards of sand. Both projects are expected to be completed within the year.
Source: US Army Corps of Engineers

Things to Do This Winter in Sea Isle City

snow at the beach

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and there isn’t a better place to spend the holidays than down the shore! This winter, there are plenty of fun activities around Sea Isle City to keep you busy – but not necessarily warm if you’re looking to take The Plunge!  Here are 6 activities that are sure to keep you active all winter long!

  1. New Year’s Eve Celebration & Fireworks (Kid Friendly)

    Kick in the New Year with an international celebration! This year’s theme, New Year’s Eve in Egypt, will feature plenty of family-friendly activities including dancing, food, and refreshments, concluding with a special ball drop at 7pm. At 8pm, enjoy a fireworks show at JFK Boulevard Beach!

    Reservations are required by December 29. See site for more details.

  2. New Year’s Eve Celebration & Fireworks (Adult Friendly)

    Two great options for taking in the New Year in Sea Isle City include two famous bar spots for a jolly good time!

    LaCosta
    December 31 at 8pm
    Tickets are $10 and include the following:

    • Buffet
    • Champagne at midnight
    • Party favors
    • The Insiders Band

    Ocean Drive
    December 31 at 7pm
    Tickets are $25 and include the following:

    • Hors d’oeuvres
    • Buffet
    • Champagne at midnight
    • The band Secret Service
  3. Polar Bear Plunge

    Saturday, February 14 (2pm for plunge)

    If you are crazy enough to plunge into the ocean in the middle of February, this event is for you. The Polar Bear Plunge is something of a traditional down the shore, and it’s a must-see if you’ve never been. To participate, you must have a ticket and can only wear a costume or swimwear! No wetsuits allowed!

    Enjoy a post-plunge party at LaCosta. Costume Contest awards are at 4pm.

    Tickets are $25 and include a t-shirt.

    • Participants must be 12+ years of age.
  4. Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism

    February 15 – 12 pm
    After you dry off from your Polar Bear Plunge, you can run or walk in the Polar Bear walk/run for Autism. This is a great event and supports a great cause!

    See site for registration details.

  5. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

    Saturday, March 15 – 3pm

    The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a popular even in Sea Isle City, with mummers and merriment galore!  Head over to Kix McNutley’s for an evening of Irish fun and entertainment!

  6. Ocean Drive Marathon

    March 29 – 9amThe Ocean Drive Marathon is a scenic 26.2 mile run through Cape May County, NJ. The race starts in Cape May and ends on the boardwalk in Sea Isle City. This race is a great way to stay active throughout the winter, not to mention the route is a beautiful tour through the jersey shore points.

    See site for more information and registration.

Beach Replenishment Project at the Jersey Shore: Revisited

Consider this part two of my blog post on beach erosion and the huge government-funded project to replenish our shores starting this winter.

Before I get into the specifics of the project, here is a quick recap of what’s been going on:

The Problem:

Hurricane Sandy and other major storms have caused significant erosion along the east coast shoreline – but we’re specifically focused on the South Jersey shores beaches, between Ocean City and Strathmere.

The Solution:

While local government and residents have had a major part in helping to fix the problem, The Army Corps have spent years putting together a proposal for beach replenishment and the project is finally federally funded and ready to begin.

Some Important Specifics I’ve Learned

  1. The project is now slated to begin in January or February (originally thought to begin in November). Sea Isle beaches will be approximately 200 to 300 feet wider at high tide, which is a huge difference from the beaches we are used to seeing today.
  2. The Army Corps project is a 50-year beach replenishment program, meaning that this project will continue to be monitored and remediated for the next half century.
  3. This isn’t the only beach replenishment project the Army Corps is conducting. They are planning to spend up to $5 billion on these east-coast beach replenishment projects just from Sandy damage alone.
  4. What about our shore neighbors? On the below map, you can see that much of the North Jersey shoreline has been approved for remediation, just like Sea Isle, but our neighbors in Cape May, Avalon, and Stone Harbor have had some construction work, while Wildwood is still in the design phase.
  5. Bids for contractors on the project took place in early October and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. of Illinois came in with the lowest bid at $58 million.
  6. Earlier this month, Ocean City Council passed a resolution opposing a state Senate Bill that would suspend beach tags for any shore that has accepted funding for beach replenishment projects. Beach tag revenue for Ocean City was about $4 million this summer, which covers costs for maintaining the OC Beach Patrol and the beaches.

My thoughts:

Of course it’s important to build smarter and better and to not lose sight of this reality: We choose to live near a huge, unpredictable body of water. But to me, it’s clear that the Army Corps Project is a long-term solution and this shows a great commitment from the federal government, as they are willing to fund and monitor our beaches, with a clear message that keeping them viable is an important and long-term goal.

Next time I’m at the beach, I’ll be sure to think about all that goes into the experience. It makes me realize that it takes years of planning, funding and a lot of community organization and commitment to keep our beaches alive.

Sources:
Us Army Corps of Engineers OC Plan
Beach Tag Revenue

The Scoop on Beach Erosion at the Jersey Shore

With the calm that the Jersey Shore brings us, it’s easy to forget that we are living near the Atlantic Ocean, and Mother Nature can be wildly unpredictable and unforgiving. That being said, beachfront and bayfront home buying clients sometimes ask me about beach erosion when they’re looking to buy a home. We all know that the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as well as other storms in recent years have taught us that while we enjoy being so close to the beach, we must also remember that with that privilege comes risk.

These storms have taken a toll on our beaches, causing beach erosion and sweeping our sand away. In Strathmere, it’s taken just a month for waves to wash away 98 acres of sand dunes. Dunes provide many useful functions at the shore, but their most important role is protecting beach homes against powerful storm waves. For many, being close to the beach is a prime location and you pay a premium for it. However, with the threat of big storms, some homeowners are more worried that the eroding beaches provide little to no protection for their beachfront homes, a legitimate concern.

So what’s being done about the problem?

Communities in our shore towns are calling for swift action to remedy the loss of sand dunes, and in some cases, are taking action into their own hands. Some neighbors have banded together and taken it upon themselves to collectively pay $1.1 million to install a large steel bulkhead that fronts the inlet side of their properties, with the local government kicking in funds to secure it. Some residents are calling for the state to build a stone jetty to better protect against the unpredictable weather, but the price tag for such a project ranges from $20 to $30 million and the jetty would be an eyesore to residents.

$50 to $100 million from the federal government to Sea Isle and Ocean City

There is a tangible solution that is getting underway this fall. The US Army Corps of Engineers prepared an Environmental Assessment for Storm Water Reduction in Great Egg Harbor Inlet ranging from the South end of Ocean City, Sea Isle City, and Strathmere. The study concluded that storms in recent years have caused a significant reduction in beach height and width in this area of the Jersey Shore. They have committed to a 16 mile sand replenishment project, with the federal government footing the bill of $50 to $100 million.
seaisle erosion plan

They plan to lay 3.56 million cubic feet of sand this November, starting in Ocean City and ending at Townsend’s Inlet in Sea Isle City. The hope is that this project will provide a long-term commitment, and more importantly, a long-term solution to helping improve vulnerable areas at the shore.

My Thoughts?

This project should help bring some comfort to residents at these shore points, while also help restore the natural state of the inlets, including the restoration of the wildlife habitat.

Sources:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
philly.com

Thoughts on AC’s Casino Closings and Effects on the Jersey Shore Real Estate Market

atlantic city real estate

Revel and Showboat Closed This Week… Trump Plaza is Next

Two of Atlantic City’s most prominent casinos, Revel and Showboat, closed over Labor Day Weekend and Trump Plaza/Hotel is slated to close in a few weeks. In total, more than 6,000 jobs will be lost – or about 20% of the Atlantic City hospitality sector. While gambling revenue is about half of what it was 8 years ago, the shore-going public is making clear that they are more focused on beach, family, and other non-gambling related activities. Plus, with casinos popping up in Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, there isn’t a need to go down the shore anymore to get your gambling fix.

What Should Atlantic City Do?

With Atlantic City’s monopoly on gambling coming to an end, perhaps Atlantic City will take a page from Vegas’s book – where revenue from gambling only makes up about 30%, while the rest is earned through top-tier entertainment, restaurants, and shopping. Atlantic City can become a destination apart from gambling, which everyone from the shore and the larger region would benefit from.

Will this happen? It’s not likely. I once learned that Atlantic City receives 64% of their taxes from the casinos. Where does that money go? So little has been done to improve the City that tourists rarely leave the walls of the casino the entire time they are there, unless it’s to go to the outlets, and even then it is large brands benefiting economically.

What’s Going to Happen to Sea Isle?

So what will happen? Well, the shore has always been a strong vacation destination, full of relaxation, boardwalks, family and beach. Atlantic City’s downfall may prove helpful for the surrounding beach towns like Sea Isle, where vacation is less about nightlife and gambling, and more about an overall “down the shore” family experience.

Will the real estate market in shore towns around Atlantic City feel a hit with the loss of so many jobs? Sea Isle is pretty far removed. In this town, Atlantic City is rarely mentioned. It is not something any of my customers past or present come to the shore to do. Most people on vacation stay in town and go to local restaurants or bars for a couple of drinks at happy hour or take the kids to the promenade and the arcades. And given Sea Isle is a small, very walkable town and the jitney makes it even easier to get around, there isn’t a whole lot of reasons to leave once you arrive. I think a lot of people just hang out at the house and play games or just enjoy each other’s company. In today’s world families don’t get to spend as much time together. Family members eat at different times because of conflicting schedules so when on vacation, they are happy just to be together. Sea Isle vacationers may occasionally go to Atlantic City to see a show but that won’t be affected as there are still other casino resorts.

So I don’t think the casino closings in Atlantic City will affect the Sea Isle City real estate market or other all-inclusive shore points in any way, negative or positive. Sea Isle has its unique thing going all its own and I think it will only get better here where I live and work.

What Shore Towns Will Be Negatively Affected?

Shore towns near Atlantic City with year-round populations will probably take a hit. Brigantine could be affected as from what I understand, many workers live their. I doubt even Ventnor or Margate will be affected, but those three communities’ real estate markets (including Northfield) may be affected if laid off workers cannot pay their rent or make mortgage payments. If this happens and with 6,000 people losing their jobs, it likely will, then we will see a softer rental market having a local effect on investment properties’ sales values from a rental income standpoint. We might also see more foreclosures, short sales, and REO properties driving down sales market prices of properties or stagnating those market’s market activity instead.

Either way, time will tell.

References:

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Corporate Real Estate vs. Local Agencies in Sea Isle

Real estate corporations in Sea Isle
You may have noticed big brand corporate real estate agencies popping up all over Sea Isle City and other shore points. So I wanted to pose a question: Does a corporate owned and operated real estate agency really make a difference in service? Like answers to most questions, it probably depends. But real estate in Sea Isle is, well, pretty unique in many ways. While corporate has the money to push their brand and successfully train young agents in basic real estate services and sales methods, the Sea Isle market is complex with long-time players and tricky zoning. So it’s important to have a local agent guide you through the entire transaction.

What about New Agents? What’s Their Best Option?

The only benefit I can see to working for a corporate agency is the wealth of information for the young “green” agent with no experience in selling real estate. However, in a small town like Sea Isle, the real estate landscape is localized and has complicated transactional aspects. Real estate transactions can be challenging because out-of-area banks do not understand the intricacies of our condo/townhouse zoning. Knowing what to expect and how to handle complicated zoning laws with out-of-area banks so that transactions aren’t held up is learned over time, through trial and error. Without an experienced local agent to manage and help banks through the transaction pitfalls, you might be looking at a delayed closing or lost deal. Large corporate companies cannot teach their agents about a localized approach, because they’d first have to learn the intricacies over the course of dozens of transactions, develop a training program to help agents with that learning curve, and then repeat it for other shore markets.

Benefits of Branding? Commission Splits?

Corporate likes to say that their “branding” will make a difference in the sales volume a real estate agent will produce. Re/Max, a large corporate franchise agency, outspends everyone in advertising in the area. Their business model is attractive to successful real estate agents with an existing book of business because they didn’t have their hand as deep in the pockets of their agents as the traditional broker. Traditionally, a broker takes 50% of an unseasoned agent’s commission with a commission split scale based on sales volume. This incentivizes the agent becomes more successful, so the percentage taken by the house decreases. In actuality, an agent has to make a threshold of commission (at least $20,000-25,000 a year) for him or her to benefit from the Re/Max business model so it is still as difficult for a real estate agent starting out as it would be with a small traditional broker.

Sea Isle is a Small Town, Mr. Buffet

In a small town like Sea Isle, so much of an agent’s success is brought about by word of mouth, how hard they work, and their knowledge and experience. In Sea Isle, it is about who you know and what you know. This is achieved by one’s own hard work. However, corporate has the money and power to convince “green” agents that their success will double if they sign with them, and can offer brokers a great buyout package to take over a local company. And now corporate is buying out corporate. It’s hard to compete with the finances of Warren Buffet, owner of Berkshire Hathaway, who bought out Prudential Fox and Roach. But no matter how large a big brand gets, they’re probably not going to care about the local touch in an a little offbeat town, and that’s why you should use a local agent if you’re considering a real estate transaction in Sea Isle and work for a local company if you’re considering becoming an agent in Sea Isle. To Be Continued…