Casino-zoned land that has languished for two years as a gigantic, empty lot overlooking the heart of the Boardwalk is finally drawing interest from potential buyers.
Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., a Las Vegas-based casino company, has been stuck with the 20-acre oceanfront property ever since it abandoned plans to develop the site for a $1.5 billion megaresort.
However, Pinnacle disclosed in a newly filed document with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission that it may finally be able to find a buyer.
“Marketing of the land for sale is ongoing, with several parties interested in purchasing the site of this land holding,” the company said in its securities filing.
Pinnacle did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for more details. The securities filing represents one of the few public statements the company has made about the sale process, which has been shrouded in secrecy for two years.
An online sales brochure prepared by Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate firm representing Pinnacle, touts the site as a “one-of-a-kind asset” that offers an array of development possibilities, including a casino, hotel, retail site or entertainment project. Local zoning laws also would allow for residential development, the brochure says.
Included in the Jones Lang LaSalle sales pitch is the possibility that the site could be eligible for economic incentives and grants from New Jersey public agencies, including the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. CRDA agreements already in place include nearly $20 million in funding for hotel expansion and sales-tax incentives for projects designated as retail districts, the brochure states.
Pinnacle has been unable to unload what is now a supersized, vacant lot ever since it aborted plans to build a Las Vegas-style casino resort. The company blamed the global credit crisis and recession for killing the project.
Pinnacle acquired most of the land when it bought the old Sands Casino Hotel in 2006 from billionaire investor Carl Icahn for $270 million. The following year, Pinnacle imploded the Sands to make way for development of its proposed megaresort. As the economy grew worse and Atlantic City’s casino industry fell into a prolonged slump, Pinnacle made the decision to sell the land.
When the sale began in 2010, a Jones Lang LaSalle executive acknowledged that Pinnacle would likely have to accept just 30 percent of the $270 million that it paid for the land. Local real estate experts have predicted the property will sell at a much lower price. The land is assessed by the city at $65 million.
The former Sands site is bordered by Indiana Avenue, Pacific Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Boardwalk. There are other, smaller parcels, mainly concentrated along the beach block of Kentucky Avenue, that have been packaged with the Pinnacle property.
In the meantime, the casino-funded Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition has reached an agreement with Pinnacle allowing the property to be transformed into a colossal work of public art created by New York-based curator Lance Fung.
The alliance has not yet announced exactly what Fung will build, although spokesman Jeff Guaracino said it will consist of sculpture and some horticulture elements. Preliminary work on the project has already started, with completion expected in November.
Fung’s display will only be temporary. Guaracino noted that the alliance’s agreement with Pinnacle calls for the removal of the art work once the property is sold. Guaracino stressed that the alliance supports the idea of Pinnacle’s land being revived with a permanent development project.
“It is the hope that more development happens,” he said.
Atlantic City officials, Guaracino added, are aware of the image problems created by having such a visible tract of land in the middle of the Boardwalk casino district remain vacant for years. The art work will dress up the site until a buyer is found.
“Everyone wants to ensure that the city looks better, visitors have a better experience and spaces are used,” Guaracino said.
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