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Renovated marina brings boaters back to Pleasantville

By REGINA SCHAFFER Staff Writer, (609) 272-7211

PLEASANTVILLE - The memories of the old marina are what brought Michael Giordano back.

Giordano, 41, can still remember riding his grandmother's boat, Queen Bee, around Lakes Bay on summer days. On Sunday, he pointed to a blue rusted mailbox on the edge of Bayview Avenue, where his grandmother's house once stood, and smiled.

"Every summer we'd come down," Giordano said.

On Sunday, Giordano came down to the newly renovated Pleasantville marina to check up on his pontoon boat Windevil, while his three children, Allison, 7, Jackie, 5, and Madison, 4, playfully kicked the crumbled seashells that now fill the parking lot.

Boat slips became available for rent May 1 for the first time in decades and Giordano was first in line to rent one. He arrived at 4:30 a.m.

"We like it down here," Giordano said. "You'll find us down here every weekend."

The Collingswood, Camden County, family is a welcome site at the marina, which until recently was in such disrepair that bulkheads had rotted and narrow boardwalks had split and splintered.

City Councilman Lincoln Green, who helped devise the waterfront revitalization, said he could remember when the marina was a thriving sailing and clamming area. He hated to watch the marina slowly deteriorate.

"The money coming in wasn't being put back into upkeep," Green said.

What really killed the marina, Green said, was when the walkway collapsed in the 1970s.

The state has since helped fix more than 30 years of neglect, with the state DEP spending $1.7 million for bulkhead construction and another $1.5 million to dredge Lakes Bay so it can once again handle boat traffic. Bubblers to prevent ice damage during the winter - a past problem at the marina - protect new piling.

So far, about 10 of 59 available boat slips have been rented, said city Business Administrator Karen Upshaw.

There are more redevelopment plans to come. City officials hope to transform the now spruced-up marina into the center of a thriving waterfront - complete with shopping, housing and restaurants with outdoor dining - stretching from Franklin Avenue to Bayview Avenue to the bay. At least 115 housing units are planned for the area, officials said.

By the end of this month, the city should be singing a contract with redevelopers Toll Brothers and Edgewood Properties, Upshaw said. The two companies formed a joint partnership to compete the city project together.

"You're going to see great housing ... all of this renovated and, hopefully, condos and homes here," Mayor Ralph Peterson said. "We know what it could be down here."

Giordano, who purchased a summer home on East Bayview Avenue two years ago, said he was pleased with the marina renovations and talk of more redevelopment - as long as plans don't involve taking his home. Eminent domain has come up in this area during talk of redevelopment years earlier, and he would not like to see it come up again, he said.

Details of the redevelopment plans are still sketchy, with the exact number of residential units still unknown, Peterson said. But he sees only positive changes ahead.

"The potential that's here now ... this could be the number one development in the city," Peterson said. "This could be, as they say, a diamond in the rough."

Peterson said Pleasantville's marina has something many waterfronts do not - a perfect view of the Atlantic City skyline.

"We have that view," Peterson said as he glanced at the casinos across the bay. "Which would add to the beauty and value."

Boat slips are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the season, which began May 1 and runs through Nov. 30, Upshaw said. Slips cost $50 per foot. There are 40 25-foot slips, which cost $1,250 each; 13 30-foot slips at $1,500 each; and six 35-foot slips at $1,750 each.

To rent a boat slip, contact the City Clerk's Office at 484-3613.

To e-mail Regina Schaffer at The Press:
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