ATLANTIC CITY — The first time Mark Callazzo walked into the Parkside, a five-story apartment building at the odd-shaped intersection of Boston and Atlantic avenues, parts were oddly tilted inside too.
“There was one section where, over a 13-foot span, it dipped almost a foot and half,” he said Friday. “When something dips like that, it’s a major problem. It was pretty bad.”
But Callazzo, who runs Alpha Funding Solutions, and John Longacre, of Longacre Property Management Group, bought the building anyway in 2015. They put engineers and contractors to work leveling it and renovating the 30 apartments. Now they hope to see the first tenants move in before the end of this month.
The Philadelphia-based Longacre also bought Atlantic City’s Morris Guards armory to convert into new apartments, with financing from Callazzo’s Alpha Funding Solutions. Their joint venture at 1 N. Boston Ave. is a few blocks from a future Stockton University campus that city leaders hope will drive upgrades to its Chelsea neighborhood.
Based on the early reception, the owners don’t expect to have much trouble filling their apartments, which runs from studios to two bedrooms and from about 450 to 850 square feet.
The rents start at $800 and range up to $1,200 a month, Longacre said.
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“The response has been so overwhelming that we had to take the ad down because we couldn’t keep up,” he says.
Dennis Deitch, of Weichert Realtors Asbury Group in Atlantic City, said the reaction has surprised him.
“I invited people who showed an early interest to have a sneak walk-through last week, and eight different parties came by to look at it,” he said. “Seven on the spot said, ‘I want one of these apartments.’ I wasn’t expecting people to be that absolutely quick about it.”
Last week, Deitch told the owners he expects to have leases signed on about 75 percent of the apartments by the end of January.
The renovated complex has been empty since the former owner, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, closed it and moved tenants out in 2013. CRDA took it over in foreclosure after the previous owner stopped paying a 1998 loan.
“One of our top priorities has been to reactivate vacant properties, so seeing that building get reopened is a very positive thing for the neighborhood and the city,” said Elizabeth Terenik, Atlantic City’s planning and development director.
The apartments are about three blocks from the Gateway project, the development centered on Albany Avenue that includes the Stockton campus and a South Jersey Gas office complex. But Longacre and Callazzo say they didn’t even know that was coming to the neighborhood when they invested in a building that dates back to 1930.
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“I think when we started, there was no talk of Stockton at all,” Callazzo said, recalling earlier plans for the university to buy the then-closed Showboat and still-closed Atlantic Club casino properties.
“I think they just got extremely lucky. And now that Stockton is coming, it’s just going to make it that much easier to rent,” Terenik said. “But Stockton isn’t opening (until 2018), so this interest is independent of Stockton.”
Alpha Funding, headquartered in Ocean County’s Lakewood, has taken on other, much smaller property transformations in Atlantic City and Ventnor, says Callazzo. He also owns the Atlantic City Bottle Co. and the Iron Room, a combination restaurant/bar and package-goods store on Albany Avenue in the city’s Chelsea Heights section.
The Parkside apartments — which get that name from the city parks across the street in a few directions — will also have three storefronts on the ground floor. Longacre said Friday that one is already leased, although the business isn’t moved in yet. It went quickly too.
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“That was on the first day,” he said.