By Mike Lednovich
When developer Ernie Saltmarsh assumed the lease on the failing Atlantic Seafood building in August 2022, he was required to submit plans for a new structure to the city. Now more than a year later, no plans have been submitted and the city commission has not addressed the status of replacing the building.
The current Atlantic Seafood structure, which is in such dilapidated condition that it cannot get insurance, was the focus of Wednesday’s Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board (CRAAB) meeting. CRAAB member Eric Bartelt asked City Attorney Tammi Bach about Atlantic Seafood and “what is it going to take to get this moving forward?”
“It takes money and approval of a plan and Mr. Saltmarsh has made it clear both publicly and in individual meetings with city commissioners that between him and his architect, he needs to fit at least 150 seats in that restaurant in order to make it work,” Bach said.
“By doing that he is trying to find a design that is going to fit all the ADA-accessible bathrooms. I’m almost certain he will want a second story of some type even if it’s just a deck so he’ll have to have an elevator with new construction. Making room for all those and 150 seats and a kitchen and storage is what I think he is struggling to do.”
CRAAB Chair Lisa Finkelstein said community frustration had built “because there hasn’t been communication (about the project) for so long.”
Bach said city staff had moved on from the Atlantic Seafood issue since no discussion about the building had taken place since a December 2022 City Commission meeting.
At that meeting, Saltmarsh submitted plans for a seafood store and a restaurant that was 4,815 square feet, including the building, porches, decks and other areas such as ramps and steps. The current Atlantic Seafood building is 1,200 square feet. That plan was rejected and Saltmarsh was instructed to submit a new plan.
“As staff, including me, the last thing we remember was Mr. Saltmarsh here at a public meeting and the commission was not going to approve or even a nod to that plan they thought was too big. I can tell you city staff, we move on to other things and that (Atlantic Seafood) moves to the bottom of the pile,” Bach said.
Bach said she sent Saltmarsh an email several months ago asking for an update, “but that was when Mr. Saltmarsh was dealing with a family issue.”
There is a deadline for replacing Atlantic Seafood since the building will have to be demolished to finish the flood protection wall to the city marina boat ramp. That construction is awaiting design and funding.
“How do we get this building gone, moved, improved? it’s going to be through demolition and a new structure,” Bach said. “In about 18 months the city is going to be, we think, ready and need to demolish the structure so that the seawall can be constructed in that location. Under the lease, they have to leave the building. So, if there is no plan and no place else to go, they have the right to build up to 1,200 square feet.”
Bach said Saltmarsh is talking with each city commissioner about a “new plan,” but said the revised plan is still about 4,000 square feet.
As far as a timeline for a new building, Bach told CRABB members “you may ask how long? I can’t answer that, you’ll have to ask your city commissioners.”