W♥V TOPIC: Landing Planning Part 1


This series of TOPIC articles will take a look at Ventnor’s public efforts in the area of land planning for the city.  Like the series on the Municipal Pier, it is grounded with an historical perspective and then will proceed chronologically through the decades of Master Plans until culminating with the most recent experiences of the city. A careful look is taken at the designation of a Redevelopment area covering 26 blocks of Northeast Ventnor, which ended with the collapse in late 2005 of ambitious plans by Alliance/Pulte Homes to remake that area.  

In the course of researching and investigating what transpired in Ventnor from approximately 1999 through 2005, there came a point in fall of 2007 where information started to be passed along indirectly to W♥V from an anonymous source who came to be referred to as “Deep Throat.”  It soon became obvious the individual had access to both internal documents and other sources of information inside the firm that was one of Ventnor’s chosen co-developers, and other firms related to it.  A somewhat Byzantine maze of many and varied, but inter-related, corporations was sorted out.

W♥V contacted New Jersey’s Office of Attorney General (OAG) and the U. S. Attorney’s Office to pass along some information, and worked toward establishing a direct link between “Deep Throat” and named contacts who responded from both of those agencies to us.  The “tips” and “leads” provided by the source which produced information which could be authenticated in public records will appear in this series of articles.  Other information provided to W♥V, and some physical documents declined by W♥V on the basis that it appeared they might be internal company financial data, were believed to be more suitably routed to law enforcement for investigation.  The source wanted continued protections of anonymity; law enforcement can best guarantee it; anonymity is inconsistent with W♥V’s policy to back up with attribution what gets published in Topics articles.

PART I: The 1948 Master Plan for Ventnor City

Although prepared during 1944 for Ventnor by consulting engineer Harold M. Lewis of New York City, that proposal for a Master Plan was not adopted until 1948 by City of Ventnor.  War time had seen Atlantic City’s hotels converted into military hospitals and rehabilitation facilities for war-wounded.  Recovery from the devastating hurricane of September 1944 compounded the stress of the times.  The attention of city fathers and residents of that era was directed to immediate concerns.  In 1944, there was still much of Ventnor which had been marked for streets but lay undeveloped, and there was a good percentage of raw land which had come into city hands due to tax delinquencies.  Lewis recommended widening many of those parcels before marketing them. 

Software: Microsoft OfficeHad Lewis’ 1944 vision been pursued, a 2008 drive from grocery shopping at Pathmark to pick up a child at the VECC might be both scenic and considerably shorter.  It would proceed almost entirely along an eight-lane, tree-lined Wellington Ave.  leading over a second bridge within the city’s borders.

Lewis had proposed substantial widening of Wellington to 160 feet, through Ventnor and into Margate. A more direct Northerly route from Atlantic City to Longport had been under discussion in the county, with the possibility of running it along Wellington Ave. to the “West Canal” (Mile Stretch) with a bridge at that point connecting the Heights to the Island.  

The 1940 Census had placed Ventnor’s full-time population at 7,905 people, and summer population was estimated at 15,000.   Relieving congestion at the Dorset Ave. Bridge was viewed to be desirable if growth trends projected through 1960 brought the population up to 9,200 and a summer population of 18,000.  Had Lewis’ 1944 plans been followed, there would also have been a neighborhood school in Ventnor Heights. 

The most notable features of Lewis’ vision for the town were his calls for wise use of land still owned by the city which abutted the water along Beach Thoroughfare and an adherence to the notion that single family homes were Ventnor’s best assurance of continued stable growth of a full-time population.  He noted a negative population trend that had affected nearby Atlantic City in the years leading up to the 1944 study, and his study attributed it to hotels and structures designed for density.  

Lewis proposed creating a “Bay Shore Boulevard” along the Beach Thoroughfare on both the Heights and Island sides of the city, with public access to water and boating facilities and what now might be called a greenbelt of open land.  He believed that the town’s earlier sales of private parcels abutting the Inside Thorofare in the already-developed sections had been a bad idea, limiting water access to the public, and decreasing the desirability of parcels and homes located on Ventnor’s interior blocks.  

He believed that open access to the beach had fostered good housing marketability in the blocks running inland a short distance from the beach.  He encouraged Ventnor to adhere to that same philosophy in making any plans for the then still-public land abutting the interior canals and thoroughfares.   

As with any Master Plan intended to predict the future for a city, the eventual outcome is often determined by discrete official decisions made over many years.  These can either adhere to what the planner offered, or give way to other considerations.

A look at the 1948 Plan diagram shown here reflects that unfolding decisions did not adhere to many aspects of Lewis’ vision.  The full 1948 Master Plan can be downloaded for review from the link at the bottom.










LINK FOR DOWNLOAD – 1948 Master Plan for Ventnor City (3.5 MB pdf)