Renovations to Oceanfront Attract Clientele and Tourists
HAMPTON — Widespread and sweeping business improvements are becoming an annual occurrence at Hampton Beach, and locals are thrilled.
When the town and state spent millions to overhaul beach infrastructure and facilities, the hope was that the new picturesque aesthetics would prompt individual property owners to make their own upgrades. For a third season in a row, another batch of businesses — longstanding and new alike — will make that dream come true this year, much to the area's delight.
"It's amazing when I walk down the street and I see all the businesses," said John Kane, a Hampton Beach resident and the beach's marketing director. "It's kind of like, 'If he spends the money I have to upgrade mine,' and it's, 'Who's doing what?'"
In addition to a slew of new businesses, restaurants and renovations as part of a $700,000 investment within the Hampton Beach Casino complex itself — which includes an engineering firm that becomes the facility's first year-round business in its 115-year history — nearly a dozen individual property owners have fresh things in store for residents and tourists this year.
The Ashworth By The Sea Hotel, the Beach View Inn, Bernie's Beach Bar, the Boardwalk Cafe, Jumpin' Jay's Java and the Sea Ketch have all made substantial improvements to their facades, interiors and/or offerings.
Bernie's and Wally's Pub owner Al Fleury has also opened a new family-friendly burger bar named The Goat in the old Happy Clam building, while the Pelham Resort Hotel has begun work on an expansion.
Construction is also in progress on several large mixed-use buildings, including a motel on the burned-down former site of the Surf Motel on A Block and a condominium on the former site of the Shirley Inn and Aegean Motel.
Boardwalk Cafe owner Jim Trainor said it's an exciting time to be a beach business owner because Hampton Beach as a whole "has been improving" and "everyone has been making changes for the better."
"I think we're just scratching the surface," said Trainor, whose restaurant has been "modernized," expanded, given a new bar overlooking the ocean, and converted into a structure that can be opened to the sea air during good weather. "The beach is getting better every day."
Trainor said a number of businesses, including his, make small changes every year. The public doesn't always notice those improvements until major facade work or the "final coat of paint" goes down, though, and he said he's glad that the Boardwalk has reached a point where people are really going to start noticing his changes.
"This was putting the finishing touches on what had been a five-year project," said Trainor, whose business got new steel infrastructure and a sprinkler system in the past few years. "We took a good building and made it better."
The Ashworth By The Sea has upgraded its balconies and replaced its balconies' metal railings with glass, giving the exterior of the 102-year-old hotel a modern facelift.
Jumpin' Jack's was hit with severe water damage in January. As a result, the entire interior was stripped down to the nuts and rebuilt. The popular cafe officially reopens today.
The Beach View Inn remodeled its rooms' kitchens and replaced its bathrooms, mattresses and furnishings.
The Pelham Resort Hotel underwent routine maintenance and upgrades, and owner Chuck Rage just got zoning approval to demolish the adjacent Kevin's Gift Shop, which has been at Hampton Beach for 40 years, to turn it into two retail stores and six hotel suites.
Rage said he's "seeing a lot of people spending some money" to make changes at the beach, and he sees all of these changes as a function of the fact that tourists and visitors are "thinking about Hampton a lot more than they used to," and a lot earlier in the season than they used to.
"I just think that we've been attracting a lot better clientele and people are fixing up their places to gear them toward better (quality) businesses," said Rage, an owner of multiple beach businesses and a Hampton Beach Village District commissioner. "It's just improved a lot."
The changes aren't even just limited to the beach's businesses, as improvements have also been made or will soon be made to a number of residential properties, including a seven-house development on Keefe Avenue.
The seven homes, which have already sold despite the fact they are not yet completed, replace an empty parking lot that "used to get flooded all the time," according to Kane. Keefe Avenue is one of a number of examples of individuals seeing an opportunity to bring something better to their beach neighborhoods, and Kane said it's a positive thing that dovetails nicely with the commercial enhancements.
"There are people building down here," said Kane, alluding to a number of other projects. "The old shacks are coming down because the land value is so much more than the buildings. We're seeing a lot of that going on down here."
Trainor said the non-commercial redevelopment is key as the beach continues its push to extend the summer season. He said the beach needs to "improve as whole unit," and these collective changes will help steer officials toward ways of "addressing how to bring more people into the beach in a more quick and efficient manner" in order to further progress.
"That will happen," said Trainor. "I think it's a twofold thing. One of the things I think we need is I think roadways coming into the beach have to be addressed and I think the parking scenario has to be addressed. I think the only thing that works is a multilevel parking structure at the beach. You can't expand without having more people here. With having more people here, you have to have more space to park the cars."
The parking garage idea is far from a new one, as Fred Schaake pitched it when he purchased and revitalized the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in 1975. Trainor said he thinks Hampton Beach leaders can soon finally bring it to fruition, though, especially if existing businesses continue to turn heads with their changes during a period of renewed economic prosperity.
"(Schaake) was right in 1975, and we're right in 2014," said Trainor. "Hopefully there won't be somebody else on the phone in 2050 talking about a parking garage that still isn't here."
By Kyle Stucker· May 16, 2014· Seacoast Online · Original Article