Lucy the Elephant’s Leaving Margate? What’s Behind the Rumor?
Have you heard the Lucy the Elephant rumors lately? The version I heard was that Lucy will be leaving Margate and moving to Atlantic City to make room for a hotel in her oceanfront spot.
This possibility that our beloved Lucy the Elephant, Margate's biggest tourist attraction and a National Historic Landmark could be looking for a new home was alarming enough that I reached out to Lucy the Elephant CEO Rich Helfant to try to dispel the rumors. Rich says that he too has been hearing the rumors. Here's what Rich Helfant told me.
The city of Margate is proposing an new hotel overlay zone, along the beach between S. Cedar Grove and S. Monroe aves., an area that encompasses the Island House and Margate Towers apartments, Ventura's Greenhouse Restaurant and Lucy the Elephant.
The overlay zone would change current zoning regulations to allow for development of high rise condos and boutique hotels along the beach in this area. The city's idea is to follow the lead of other South Jersey shore towns trying to attract more short-term visitors (overnight, weekend or mid-week tourists) with these ocean-view hotel options. Presently, there are no hotels in the city and existing Margate ordinances restrict short-term rentals.
Here's where questions arise concerning Lucy, according to Rich Helfant. The city of Margate owns the parcel of land where Lucy is, having purchased it in 1954, deeded as open space park land. That means that the deed would need to be changed if the city had any other plan for that parcel of land.
Lucy the Elephant is under a fifty-year lease for the land with the city of Margate which expires on December 31, 2019. Helfant say the Save Lucy Committee has actively been trying to negotiate with Margate for an extension of that lease unsuccessfully for the past six years. Helfant plan to keep trying to reach an accord with the city to keep Lucy where she is.
Is the city considering selling the parcel of land to developers for a hotel? No one is saying publicly, and, thus the rumor mill fills with speculation.
Helfant says he can't imagine that Margate would evict Lucy, which he points out is a major component of the tourism package for the Atlantic City region. But, "until Margate step ups and is open about what's going on" with the hotel overlay zone plans and a new lease for Lucy, the rumors will persist.
Helfant said he believes a hotel in Margate "would be awesome", as long as it doesn't interfere with Lucy the Elephant.
The next Margate Planning Board meeting is at 6pm, Thursday, Sept. 27.