The historic Surfside lifesaving station is back on the market, as Blue Flag Partners has abandoned its plans to convert the former youth hostel into a hotel.
The property at 31 Western Avenue near Surfside Beach was purchased by Blue Flag in September 2020 for $3.55 million from Hostelling International. But two years later, Blue Flag Partners has decided to sell the property.
“Blue Flag brought the project to a shovel ready status for a full restoration and continued hospitality use,” Blue Flag co-founder Terry Sanford said in a prepared statement responding to an inquiry from the Current. “Ultimately, we aren't going to be able to give the Star of the Sea the level of attention that we believe it deserves at this time so we are seeking a new steward who will carry forward our vision to back the grandeur of this one of a kind property."
The property will be listed at $7.9 million, more than double the price Blue Flag paid in 2020, according to listing agent Carl Lindvall, of Douglas Elliman Nantucket.
Lindvall said the property is not yet officially listed, as he and Blue Flag Partners allow some of the organizations and other parties who were interested in buying it back in 2020 to “get a first shot at it.” If no deal develops, it will be listed publicly at the $7.9 million asking price.
So far, Lindvall says he has reached out to the Egan Maritime Institute, which had bid on the property back in 2020, along with the town and the Nantucket Land Bank to gauge their interest.
Lindvall said the decision to put the property back on the market was driven by Blue Flag’s need to focus on the many other development and renovation projects it has in the works, both on-island and on the mainland, including The Pearl and The Boarding House restaurants, and The Beachside hotel, among many others.
“They have so much going on right now, they feel they can’t give it the attention it deserves,” Lindvall said of the lifesaving station property. “I think part of it is that for them, it’s a small project and right now they’ve got a lot of other projects in the air. They’re looking to have someone come in and give it the attention it deserves.”
As far as the asking price being more than double what Blue Flag acquired the property for, Lindvall said there are a number of factors which peg the listing price where it is.
“It’s the market,” Lindvall said. “You look at the market going up 15 to 20 percent per year. And they’ve put a fair amount of money into designing and approving plans, and a new septic. So you look at everything combined.”
The property includes the last remaining U.S. Life Saving Service building on the island, which dates back to 1874, and served as a lifesaving station through 1921. According to the Nantucket Preservation Trust, “the federal government retained ownership of the site until 1962, when Lilye Mason, a longtime housemother for American Youth Hostels, Inc. successfully bid to purchase the property and convert it for use into a hostel. In 1963, Ms. Mason sold the property to American Youth Hostels, Inc., now known as Hostelling International.”
It was then known as the “Star of the Sea” youth hostel for decades until the property was put on the market by the Hostelling International organization in the fall of 2020. Five bids were received, including one from the Egan Maritime Institute, but it was ultimately Blue Flag’s $3.5 million offer that was accepted.
At the time, former Egan Maritime Institute executive director Pauline Proch expressed disappointment that the property was not sold to the non-profit, and said Egan was best positioned to be the next steward of the life saving station. Despite its own $3.5 million bid, Egan could not get the necessary contingencies in place before the closing, Proch said.
Egan Maritime’s current executive director Carlisle Jensen declined to comment on the property being listed for sale.
In the aftermath of the sale in 2020, the Select Board voted to transfer an existing preservation restriction on the property - which prevents any alterations to the exterior of the original lifesaving building - from the Nantucket Historic District Commission to the Nantucket Preservation Trust.
“A preservation easement is an excellent preservation tool, as the restriction runs with the deed, regardless of who the owner of the protected building is,” Nantucket Preservation Trust executive director Mary Bergman told the Current on Thursday. “The preservation easement on the Star of the Sea Lifesaving Station and historic buildings at 31 Western Ave ensures there will be no changes to the exterior appearance of these important buildings without approval of NPT and the Historic District Commission. We look forward to working with the next steward of these structures significant to Nantucket’s history.”