ATLANTIC CITY - Glenn Straub has yet to complete his acquisition of the former Revel Casino Hotel for $94.5 million, but Mayor Don Guardian said Wednesday that he likes what he hears from the Florida investor.
"He wants to bring in new businesses, bring in new jobs, and pay taxes. Not too many people talk to me about those subjects these days," Guardian said after a panel discussion organized by the Urban Land Institute at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Beyond Straub's still-forming plans for Revel, panelists depicted a city that is bubbling with ideas, including, Guardian said, the possibility of an Atlantic City medical school under consideration by AtlantiCare, which is in the process of merging with Geisinger Health System.
Richard Stockton College's December purchase of the former Showboat casino hotel from Caesars Entertainment Corp. for $18 million is already spurring activity in that neighborhood, Stockton president Herman Saatkamp said.
"Already there are people inquiring about the property around it, purchasing, planning buildings there to support our students," Saatkamp said. "Very shortly, within the first year, you'll begin to see businesses start up."
Additional developments anticipated this year include a $35 million Army Corps of Engineers project to rebuild a large section of the Boardwalk, groundbreaking for a $60 million, 250-unit residential project by Boraie Development L.L.C. on long-vacant land near the Revel, and the purchase of the former Atlantic Club casino hotel by a Philadelphia-area developer.
But not all is cheery in the city, which has lost 5,187 full-time and 975 part-time casino jobs in the last year, according to data from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
In another sign of economic duress, the city of nearly 40,000 does not have a full-scale supermarket, and that is not likely to change any time soon.
"We'd all love to see a supermarket. We can't find anyone that's willing to come," Guardian said in response to a question.
Absent a supermarket, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority worked for 18 months to secure land for what executive director John Palmieri called a mini-Reading Terminal Market. The six- to seven-acre site is in the center of town, near Tanger Outlets and the AtlantiCare hospital.
CRDA had market plans ready to go and "then discovered that there might be some serious interest from the hospital in growing their campus," Palmieri said.
Given the city's goal of diversifying its economy into medicine and education, "this would be the way to go, if AtlantiCare in fact is able to put together a plan," Palmieri said.
Rene Bunting, AtlantiCare's vice president of marketing and communications, said the health system is considering an expansion of its education programs in Atlantic City, but was not prepared to share details of the plan, which could involve partners.