ATLANTIC CITY – Two Philadelphia developers plan to construct a $3 billion residential, office and retail development on the site of a historic former airport in Atlantic City, the latest proposal for one of the largest oceanfront developable lots on the US East Coast .
However, Tower Investments and Post Brothers’ proposal unveiled Monday faces competition from a previously announced car-centric project that has been endorsed by the Mayor of Atlantic City, who says developer DEEM Enterprises is close to announcing a letter of intent on the project to be signed immediately.
The state of New Jersey has the final say over what, if anything, is built on the site of the former Bader Field, which formerly housed an air facility that was the first in the world to be called an “airport.” Tower CEO Bart Blatstein on Monday called for “an open, transparent process” to find developers for the site.
The plan unveiled on Monday is called Casa Mar, a water-intensive development inspired by the canals of Amsterdam.
Blatstein owns the Showboat Hotel and other properties in Atlantic City. Post Brothers has built 8,000 homes and 700,000 square feet of office and retail space in and around Philadelphia since 2006.
Blatstein called the proposal “a unique opportunity for Atlantic City.”
“It will be modeled on the canals of Amsterdam, with canals running through the property,” Blatstein told The Associated Press. “It came from embracing the water and realizing we can create a lot more waterfront properties.”
It would include 10,000 apartment buildings, 400,000 square feet of retail and office space, and 20 acres (eight hectares) earmarked for hiking trails and public recreation space.
The proposal is the latest in a series of plans for the 143-acre site, which is owned by the city but controlled by the state under a 2016 takeover law that gives the state government power over most of Atlantic City’s major decisions.
It follows one unveiled in February by DEEM Enterprises, a company based in Los Angeles and Atlantic City.
This $2.7 billion leisure, residential and retail project aimed at car enthusiasts would include a 2.44-mile (4-kilometer) car course for car enthusiasts to drive their high-end automobiles ; approx. 2,000 residential units in various price categories; a retail promenade and other car-themed attractions. Mayor Marty Small endorsed it in February and renewed his support Monday.
“A (memorandum of understanding) between the city and the developer is imminent,” Small said. “It’s close. I appreciate the confidence Bart and his partners have in Atlantic City, which is sending a good signal.”
Dan Gallagher, one of DEEM’s partners, confirmed that his company expects to sign an agreement with the city in the near future.
“We are aware of (Blatstein’s proposal) and we are moving forward,” Gallagher said. “We’ve been active for over two years, we’ve made public presentations, we’ve been to the city council, we’ve been to the state. We have a lot of time and money in due diligence for this.”
Bader Field, which closed in September 2006 after 96 years of flying, gave the world the term “airport” when a local reporter used the word in a 1919 article.
In 1910 it was the scene of the first attempt to cross the Atlantic by air, 17 years before Charles Lindbergh succeeded. Walter Wellmann took off in the airship “America” and was about to be lowered off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, when a storm was brewing.
Entertainers en route to Boardwalk ballrooms, business travelers, and even US Presidents flew in and out of Bader Field regularly, but it remained the domain of light aircraft and private pilots; Larger jets landed at Atlantic City International Airport, about 15 kilometers away.
Bader Field is where the Civil Air Patrol was formed just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The city has tried several times to sell the land, setting a reserve price of $1 billion in 2008 but expecting at least $1.5 billion for one of the largest oceanfront buildable lots on the US East Coast.
The thought was that at least three new casinos could be built there. Pennsylvania-based casino company Penn National offered $800 million, but the city was looking for more, and a deal never materialized.
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