Two projects intended to redevelop and diversify what Atlantic City has to offer received financial backing from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Tuesday.
Market Ventures Inc., a Portland, Maine-based firm, will be paid $99,825 to analyze where an enclosed marketplace would best thrive in the city, what vendors could be located there, and what operational model would make the market successful.
Several potential locations for marketplace that officials say could mimic the feel of Reading Terminal Market, have been identified in the city’s Downtown and Ducktown sections.
Wherever the location, officials were adamant that any marketplace developed should showcase the diversity of cultures in Atlantic City and have a distinctly New Jersey feel, capitalizing on products the state is known for.
Meanwhile, the authority’s board also moved to commit $8.6 million to a redevelopment effort across town in the city’s South Inlet. That measure lays the groundwork for the relocation of residents living in more than 62 housing units as the CRDA moves forward with a land-acquisition process to add newer housing, and a chic collection of boutiques and restaurants.
Still, funding for whatever development would take the place of the aging housing units hasn’t been secured. Officials initially planed for a $50 million project dependent on a funding stream secured with backing from Revel, but the casino’s early performance has not made that financing possible.
“This is not the $25 million or $50 million project we talked about months ago,” CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said. “This is the beginning of a very important project for us.”
Resident William Cheatham, a member of CRDA’s Tourism District Advisory Committee, said that while he recognizes that relocation can be emotional, the project is key to the city’s vitality.
“In the long run, we need this development in that inlet,” he said.
The marketplace development envisioned not far away would also add a new dimension to the resort, appealing to both visitors and residents, officials said. The resort had been without a major grocery store for six years until Save-A-Lot opened at Renaissance Plaza in May.
Residents who spoke at the meeting as well as officials noted the importance of including a range of foods that would accurately represent the cultures housed within Atlantic City.
Whether looking at examples of indoor marketplaces in Philadelphia or New York City, it’s the presence of a local flavor that makes the ventures a successful staple in the area, CRDA board Chairman James Kehoe said.
Palmieri said Market Ventures is uniquely qualified to lead the feasibility study because the firm is familiar with marketplace development, as well as construction and operation. It’s too soon to tell, however, whether the relationship could segue into the firm’s involvement in other stages of the project.
Among the firm’s first tasks will be to become familiarized with what foods are available locally and what vendors might be interested in a space in the new market.
“We’d like people to stay where they are, obviously. If you’ve got a business in the city on Atlantic Avenue or in the South Inlet, or Ducktown, we want you to stay there, but you may also want to do something else within the market,” Palmieri said.
CRDA was also expected to vote Tuesday on accepting a $9.5 million donation from Caesars Entertainment for the project. However, the measure was tabled until the board’s February meeting, marking the second time the item was pushed back. The donation was included as a condition of CRDA’s approval last year for a $45 million reservation for a new conference center at Harrah’s.
Palmieri said the board was not yet prepared to accept the funding.
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