Six years after the property along East Main Street was purchased from the state for development, work is about to begin on that will bring 35,000 square feet of retail space to the borough's downtown.
Work is expected to begin on the project next week and should take about 18 months until the first tenants move in, according to Victor Gourkanti, the developer of the project, at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Monday.
The gathering in the grassy field along East Main Street on Aug. 13 included representatives from many of the parties that had a hand in getting the project off the ground, including the architect, engineer, lending institution and Oceanport officials.
Gourkanti said he purchased through auction the 4.7 acres, which are adjacent to Maria Gatta Community Park, from the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority in October 2006 but the sluggish economy slowed progress and produced "lack of interest from lenders."
The two planned buildings will include retail space on the ground floor and office and residential space on the second and partial third floors bringing the total amount of square footage to 87,000, said Gourkanti.
Aside from a bank, which is planned at the far-end of one building closest to the existing Oceanport Plaza, no retailers have committed to renting space, said the developer, who added that he'd like to see small local businesses taking advantage of the new location.
The buildings will reflect a "village" design in "soft" tones that complement the Hovnanian Jockey Club community across the street, said the project's architect.
"We took an upscale approach for the design of the whole project," he Gourkanti. "Even inside, we are using materials like marble and granite."
Councilman William Johnson, who took part in Monday's ceremony, said, "It's a nice addition to the area." He told Patch he'd like to see a bagel shop and maybe a family-style eatery open up in the center.
The men all lined up in the field sporting hard hats and holding shovels with "Oceanport Village Center" emblazoned along the handles, and a few took a ceremonial dig into the site. As he scooped up a patch of grass, Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon said, "Bring in the backhoes."