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By Max Sullivan

Seacoast Sunday, May 3, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

A scenic view from a spacious deck at the new condominium building at 339 Ocean Boulevard overlooking Hampton Beach
A scenic view from a spacious deck at the new condominium building at 339 Ocean Boulevard
overlooking Hampton Beach. [Photo by Rich Beauchesne]

HAMPTON BEACH — As new developments continue to reshape Hampton Beach in 2015, local business owners say the vacation spot is on the road to reaching its goal of becoming a “first-class tourist destination.”

Four new condominium complexes and a high-end motel are being built in the next 18 months at the beach.

The condo complexes will go up on Ocean Boulevard, Ashworth Avenue and N Street, said Tom McGuirk, a Hampton Realtor. Those structures will bring a total of about 90 units, he said, ranging from townhouse to unattached cottages.

Meanwhile, the Pelham Suites, recently constructed next to the Pelham Resort Motel on Ocean Boulevard, will offer beach-goers six new motel suites, said owner Chuck Rage. It’s the first new hotel or motel to be built at the beach since the 1980s, Rage said.

The new structures mark just one chapter in a revamp that started a decade ago, McGuirk said.

The town spent $12 million to redo Hampton Beach sewers roughly 10 years ago, which allowed for more development. The state put in a $14.5 million renovation to the state park facilities in 2011, redoing the Seashell Stage and bathhouses.

On the town’s side of Ocean Boulevard, Sal Lupoli has put over $1 million into renovating his Casino property since purchasing it in 2012.

McGuirk said those improvements as well as the ones being made this year are giving the beach a much-needed facelift.

Large new ocean-view condominium buildings are now part of the Ocean Boulevard streetscape like this one near Mrs. Mitchell's Gifts.
Large new ocean-view condominium buildings are now part of the Ocean Boulevard streetscape
like this one near Mrs. Mitchell’s Gifts. [Photo by Rich Beauchesne]

“It’s going to be a first-class tourist destination, and we’re in the infancy of that right now,” McGuirk said.

A benefit of the new condos and suites is that they will bring more stores to the beach, as an existing ordinance requires the first floor of new buildings in the center of the beach area to be used for commercial space.

Bobby Preston of Preston Real Estate said the quality of the condos will draw higher-end shops. He cited Mrs. Mitchell’s, a gift shop near the intersection of Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, as a standard for beach shops that target families.

“You need to have the quality of stores like Mrs. Mitchell’s,” Preston said. “You need to have a store that your mother or sister will go in.”

Zac’s Barn is one of those new shops, Preston said, which is opening up a few doors down from Mrs. Mitchell’s. Owner Owen Carter said he’s hoping they will be open by June.

McGuirk said it’s a good shift from shops “you would expect at a honky-tonk.” He cited the shops on Ocean Boulevard that sell crass T-shirts, knives and drug paraphernalia.

“We don’t want to say, ‘Come to Hampton Beach and get your bong.’ I mean, seriously, that’s not what a tourist destination is,” McGuirk said.

If development is the genesis of a new Hampton Beach, John Nyhan of the Hampton Beach Area Commission said transportation will bring it to the next level.

The commission was established by legislature to assist the town of Hampton and State of New Hampshire agencies and departments in the long-range planning for the Hampton Beach area

Nyhan said out-of-staters don’t want to “wait in traffic for hours” when they come to Ocean Boulevard, but that’s what happens on busy holiday weekends, he said.

“The transportation is key to us to take our next step,” Nyhan said. “So that we can draw more people coming to Hampton Beach both from the north, the west and the south that would make it more of a pleasant trip, back and forth getting out.”

A new parking lot in the beach area and improvements to the Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge are possible solutions to traffic problems, Nyhan said. But major projects like that require money from the federal government and could take “three to four years” to complete even if applications for them were completed “today,” he said.

In the short-term, Nyhan suggested a shuttle system and off-beach parking for business employees. That would free up parking for visitors, as employees often compete with tourists for spots. He suggested the lots at Winnacunnet High School and Hampton Academy.

In addition, Nyhan said the number of businesses with improved storefronts must grow. Many seasonal business owners need to catch up with the likes of Lupoli, Rage, and Jimmy Trainor, who redid his Boardwalk Inn & Cafe before last summer.

“Some of the Ocean Boulevard storefront owners that are there only for the eight weeks need to commit to improving their properties and following the example of those businesses that have made a true long-term commitment to improvement,” Nyhan said.

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