Hatteras village has had some promising
developments recently after years of efforts to get back to business
following 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. The 152-year-old Red & White
reopened to the public after a long winter of remaining closed, the
Hatteras Village Pathways Referendum passed in the May primary ballot,
paving the way for new walkways to be installed in the village, and the
new passenger ferry, (though delayed), is still anticipating a spring
And there may be more developments to come in
this slow but steady revitalization of Hatteras village, specifically
in the northern corner of the village in the vicinity of the Sea Gull
Sumit Gupta is the Chief Executive Officer,
Co-Founder, and Principle Partner of SAGA Construction, Inc., which
purchased the Sea Gull Motel property in the spring of 2016. The motel,
which was built in 1955 but which was hit hard and reduced in size by
2003’s Hurricane Isabel, still welcomes longtime visitors, but plans
are in the works to potentially transform the property into something
SAGA has had a longstanding relationship with
Hatteras village, partnering in different arenas with the Hatteras
Island Ocean Center, which is located almost directly across the street
from the Sea Gull Motel.
“We have a number of different relationships with
SAGA,” says Eric Kaplan of the Hatteras Island Ocean Center. “On the
nonprofit level, SAGA has made very generous donations to the
foundation for the last few years, which helps us cover our operating
“Basically, in SAGA, we found a really good
partner that wants to do something great for the community, and we can
see that relationship lasting well into the future,” he adds. “They
will be able to move forward and do something special in the area.”
The Hatteras Island Ocean Center currently owns
the oceanfront property that’s right next to the Sea Gull Motel, but
the purchase was never a for-profit venture.
“When the Ocean Center bought that oceanfront
property, we were safeguarding it,” says Kaplan. “It was about to
become three rental homes, but Hatteras village needed something to
move the community forward – a pier, a park, whatever – so we saw it as
becoming a steward of the property.”
The conversation of what to do in northern
Hatteras village has gone on for a number of years. The idea of a
potential oceanfront fishing pier near the Sea Gull Motel was first
floated in 2012, and in recent years, there have been rumors and talk
about a new motel or hotel going up in the area.
And while nothing is set in stone, and no plans
or permits have been formally presented for the Sea Gull property just
yet, the idea of a boutique hotel with anywhere from 50-100 rooms is
slowly gaining some steam.
“Planning is underrated,” says Gupta. “Nothing
has been settled at all, and we’re still just having conversations.
[It’s a] a dialogue with commissioners, residents, business owners, and
Eric, and we found some common goals. We’re looking into the things
that will really enhance the area.”
As it stands, the Sea Gull Motel has undergone
some minor renovations in the past couple of years to appeal to weekend
and short-term vacationers. A number of folks interested in the
project, as well as in the revitalization of Hatteras village, have
pointed out that motels and short-term housing are in relatively short
supply and help drive business to local restaurants and other stores
and area destinations.
If a boutique hotel is proposed by SAGA, it would
likely replace the current Sea Gull Motel and would have anywhere from
50 or 60 to up to 100 rooms. The approval process would hopefully start
in the next several months, with development starting in the next 12-24
months after county and public feedback.
But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And the slow
process to determine the best use of the property is attributed to
finding what works in Hatteras village, and what will work for the
longer term – not just for a short-term profit.
“It has to be beyond what’s the best project to
get a return on investment,” says Gupta. “I don’t want to force
anything, because it’s not a need, it’s a desire. All of this is
challenging by itself, and the last thing you want to do is create
additional challenges. You need to have the [community’s] support so
it’s most likely to happen.”
“If I fail, it’s a failure for the area,” he adds.
And the question of “What’s best for Hatteras?”
has loomed large throughout the process of determining the best use of
the roughly 5.5 acre property.
“It’s a combination of a love for the area,
curiosity of the area, and long term [solutions] for the area,” says
Gupta. “Hatteras Island has a lot of potential to develop things that
are in harmony with the area, and we want to make sure [what we
propose] will work, and will fit with the landscape.”
“There hasn’t been a new motel in Hatteras
[village] in decades, but that doesn’t mean one isn’t needed,” he says.
“But you have to put something in place that will work.”
Gupta also says that the idea of an oceanfront
pier in Hatteras village still isn’t outside the realm of possibility
just yet. An ambitious project since it was first proposed in 2012 by
Eric Kaplan, there are ample challenges when it comes to constructing a
new pier, but there are some obvious area-wide benefits too, especially
considering the recent removal of the Frisco Pier, leaving just two
piers standing on the island which are at least 15 miles away from
“A pier is difficult to justify economically, but
it would add another destination attraction to the area,” says Gupta.
“I haven’t given up on it, but it has to be some sort of public /
private partnership… and we’re beginning those conversations at this
Other ideas are being floated as well, such as
work-force housing, as more problem areas are being identified through
conversations with the local community. But like every other project
being considered for the village, it all depends on timing, long-term
solutions, and what will fit in with the small and wholly distinct
landscape of Hatteras village.
And for Gupta, identifying something that will
help Hatteras village is what is driving the project, and is what will
potentially lead to plans for a new boutique hotel in the
“Hatteras Island has unique potential, as well as
unique complexities,” says Gupta. “We’re trying to find what makes
sense… something you can do that is more significant than just a few
houses, and [this property] gives us a canvas to explore something
“With a little planning and creativity, we can put something in place that will work [for the area.]”
And these conversations, ideas, and tentative
plans seem to follow suit with what is becoming a community-wide
investment in bringing people to Hatteras village.
“This is a really important time for the
village,” says Eric Kaplan. “For example, I think the decision of the
village to invest in pedestrian paths is huge. It shows Hatteras
village is committed to revitalizing itself. The village isn’t waiting
for outsiders to do this – we’re taking the bull by the horns and being
“It’s all a work in progress, but the thinking
has evolved,” says Kaplan. “With each new generation, we come up with
new ideas, and a potential plan that’s a better fit for the village.
We’re already doing some great things in Hatteras village, and we want
to keep going, and to do more.”