I do it myself – get caught up in the bizarre and negative news about Atlantic City. It can be hard not to.
The former Revel Casino-Hotel, now Polo North, for example. The second-tallest building in the state, it was built for $2.4 billion and sold at bankruptcy auction last week for $82 million. And at this writing Monday morning, the building is dark, its power cut off as a result of a dispute with the company that owns the free-standing independent power plant that supplies juice to the structure. The building is now a risk to firefighters if a fire were to break out and an unlit risk to pilots approaching Atlantic City International Airport at night.
It all has such a Third World feel to it. (And I’m not going to get into the hacking of the Casino Reinvestment Development website over the weekend – the site’s usual home page was briefly replaced by a black screen extolling jihad. Really.)
But enough. There are good things happening in Atlantic City.
This week, for example, the 86,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops super store opens. The place is huge and a perfect match for the demographics of Atlantic City’s visitors.
Up on the Boardwalk, right next to the highly successful Boardwalk Hall concert venue, steel is going up for a full block of stores being built by Bruce E. Toll.
A little to the south, in the city’s Chelsea section, work is well under way by RPM Development Group of Montclair, which is transforming a long-vacant nursing home just off the beach and Boardwalk into 58 apartments.
There’s a giant crane sitting on the beach in front of the Tropicana, lifting the rigging that will hold a dynamic new light show on the building’s façade.
And cool small pubs, clubs and restaurants seem to be popping up all over the city – Atlantic City Bottle Company, The Iron Room, Vagabond, Wingcraft, the Boneyard Bar & Grill. Check out Lauren Moon’s August 2014 post – and the comments – at her mindovermoon.com blog (http://mindovermoon.com/?p=403. ) to get a taste of this side of Atlantic City. People her age get it – and they are a great target market for the city.
Note that the developments and new attractions I’ve mentioned above are real, with steel in the ground, construction under way and front doors opening. I generally shun the “pretty picture” school of planning – those gorgeous renderings of projects that never seem to get off the ground. But Northern Liberties developer Bart Blatstein definitely deserves a shout-out for his plans for transforming The Pier Shops at Caesars into a $50 million entertainment venue called “The Playground.” Pretty pictures aside, Blatstein is the real deal. His plans are focused on that 20-something to 40-something market that already loves AC, and he has a record of turning around distressed properties.
I run the Boardwalk regularly. And I’m really, really slow. That gives me plenty of time to see what’s going on, and I make it a habit to engage tourists. One sunny, blue-sky, blue-ocean day last week, I shouted to an obviously visiting couple as I sauntered by, “Not that bad a place, right?” The woman responded, “Are you kidding? We’re having a great time. It’s beautiful.”
It can be … it can be …
Jim Perskie is the former editorial-page editor of The Press of Atlantic City. Email: email@example.com.