CRDA employees Sami Muhammad, left, and Hassan Hameen, both of Atlantic City, install walkways Wednesday on an empty sand lot at Kingston Avenue and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City that will be turned into a recreation area by mid-October.

Press photo by Sean M. Fitzgerald

Work started Wednesday on an Atlantic City Boardwalk property to make the site more suitable for hosting outdoor movies and concerts — and more attractive to developers.

The Atlantic City Free Public Library has scheduled summer concerts and Friday night movies for the past decade on the lot between Bartram and Kingston avenues in the Lower Chelsea section of the resort.

Landward of the Boardwalk, the half-acre tract is owned by the city and assessed at $3.4 million. The municipality also owns the $1.76 million lot spanning less than a quarter-acre between Bartram and Columbia avenues, city real estate director Patti Corcoran said.

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“We tried to sell them a couple years ago (at) auction, but there was neighborhood opposition, so we figured we’d hold onto them and try to turn them into parks,” Cochran said. “But now that’s in the Tourism District, so SID is going to improve them.”

Formerly an autonomous agency funded by the city government, the Special Improvement District became a division of the locally based Casino Reinvestment Development Authority at the end of last year. The CRDA took over planning and development responsibilities within the Atlantic City Tourism District as per state law effective Feb. 1, 2011.

The weeklong project that began Wednesday in Lower Chelsea will cost $22,000. It will replace the sand with a grass lawn — except at the edges — and add walkways that match the Boardwalk and lead into the site from Bartram and Kingston, SID Executive Director Don Guardian said.

“We want to take it on as a pocket park so it will be more enjoyable for movie nights and as a concert venue,” Guardian said.

In 2013, the SID intends to revamp the overgrown area between Bartram and Columbia into an interactive botanical garden, he said.

SID’s pocket-park plan calls for improving 10 vacant spaces annually — one every three weeks through the end of the year — and maintaining them as well as those already upgraded, Guardian said.

Up next this year: the southeast corner of the intersection at Florida and Pacific avenues, followed by Pacific and Kentucky avenues.

The SID will add landscaping along those streets to improve the appearance of long-vacant properties they border.

Florida and Pacific marks 2.3 acres of vacant land opposite Boardwalk Hall. Alternately known as the former Worlds’ Fair Casino or Playboy Casino site, the $24.3 million property is among those targeted by the CRDA’s push to put public artworks on empty lots.

CRDA nonprofit marketing arm the Atlantic City Alliance hired New York-based curator Lance Fung to oversee the project.

Fung will hit the 20-acre Pinnacle property at Kentucky and Pacific avenues first. He has said he envisions large-scale, roller coaster-themed sculptures meant to tie into Steel Pier a half-mile away. Expected to be finished in November, the temporary installation would be removed if the site changes hands, as per the ACA’s agreement with landowner Pinnacle Entertainment.

Pinnacle filed documents Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that suggest potential buyers are afoot.

The Las Vegas company paid $270 million for the property in 2006 with plans to build a $1.5 billion megaresort to replace the Sands Casino Hotel. Since demolishing the Sands in 2007, however, Pinnacle has instead tried to unload the site without success.

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