An enclosed marketplace that would mimic Philadelphia’s famed Reading Terminal Market is among the projects the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority hopes to undertake in Atlantic City this year.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said the marketplace, which could feature a fresh market and food and retail vendors, is among the authority’s priority projects in the coming year. Five firms have submitted proposals for the project, and the authority expects to award a contract at its meeting next Tuesday.
“It’s a project with a huge community benefit, and there’s currently nothing remotely like it in the city,” Palmieri said. “With any luck, we’d see ... the project started by fall, but that’s not guaranteed.”
Palmieri’s remarks were made on the eve of a roundtable discussion of Atlantic City organizations in Philadelphia. CRDA will team up with the Atlantic City Alliance today to discuss statistics related to resort tourism, recap progress made in the Tourism District in 2012, and lay out goals for this year.
The marketplace development is one of those goals. The concept was announced last year, but it became clear in November that the project would be fast tracked when a $9.5 million contribution to the project from Caesars Entertainment was included as a condition of CRDA’s financing approval for a $134 million conference center at Harrah’s.
Few details have been released aside from the initial concept - one that would include food vendors and retail vendors and potentially incorporate a farmer’s market aspect to development. A request for proposals that was due in December requires whichever firm is selected to produce a report detailing whether the marketplace concept would work in the city, how large it should be and where it should be located.
Respondents were also asked to provide a budget, building design,and an ownership and management structure.
CRDA has provided five potential locations: CRDA-owned lots adjacent to the Atlantic City Convention Center, a site adjacent to The Wave parking garage, a parking lot on Fairmount Avenue currently leased to the South Jersey Transportation Authority, a site across from Boardwalk Hall partially owned by the authority, and a site near the Claridge Hotel Casino owned by Caesars Entertainment.
Whichever firm is selected will be asked to determine which site would provide the greatest benefit to the city. The Tourism District Master Plan calls for improving walkability in the city and encouraging more people to walk on the city’s side streets.
It should take two or three months to produce the analysis, Palmieri said.
Palmieri’s remarks today are also expected to address progress made in the Tourism District in the past year and plans for the future. Major projects that have already received CRDA backing and are expected to see progress this year include the addition of Bass Pro Shops as the final planned phase of development for Atlantic City’s outlets, the opening of Margaritaville at Resorts Casino Hotel, and the start of construction on a Las Vegas-style conference center at Harrah’s Atlantic City.
CRDA approved $45 million in financing for the Harrah’s project in November. At the time, some board members expressed concern that Harrah’s parent company, Caesars Entertainment, did not yet have the remainder of its financing package in place.
Palmieri said he’s been assured that the financing should be in place by the end of the month.