EDA approves $24M grant toward conference center in Atlantic City

TRENTON – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved a more than $24 million economic redevelopment and growth grant for Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City to build a conference center.

Harrah’s Atlantic City Inc. is proposing the development of a new center that would be located near its existing casino. The project is estimated to cost $144,590,000, of which nearly $133,000,000 qualifies for the economic redevelopment and growth grant. The board approved an award of up to $24,128,000 over 20 years.

EDA officials said the new center would “add to the marketplace,” rather than “cannibalize” Atlantic City’s existing convention center – which is much larger than the size of the proposed center.

“This could help stimulate growth in Atlantic City and not take growth away from other areas,” said Joe McNamara, vice-chairman of the EDA board.

The project is a two-story center that would accommodate both medium and small-scale meetings and events. The center would be more than 243,000 square feet.

Superstorm Sandy

The board also approved a new $2 million lending program aimed at assisting small businesses adversely affected by Superstorm Sandy.

The EDA, which, officials said, typically stayed away from “micro-lending” to small businesses, made an exception following the aftermath of the storm. The loans, which typically range between $10,000 and $15,000, will be underwritten by Community Development Financial Institutions that are providing loans to small businesses affected by the storm.

“We simply don’t have the staff,” said Michele Brown, CEO of the EDA, adding that CDFIs have contacted the authority to discuss investments in their microloan funds.

“I think it’s a critical part of the recovery,” said Koeppe.

The board unanimously approved the motion.

EDA approves $24M grant toward conference center in Atlantic City