ATLANTIC CITY — Brian Davis hears all the negativity surrounding his native city — the casino closures, the shaky finances, the looming state takeover.
So Davis is trying to help his hometown turn around. The two-time collegiate national basketball champion wants to make a “positive contribution” with a “green” mixed use development along the city’s back bay. He envisions high-end rental housing, retail and a boardwalk along the marina.
His company, Urban Echo, is close to buying Riverside, a 10.43-acre waterfront property along Route 30. Urban Echo, where Davis serves as managing member, bid $5.3 million for the land in a recent sealed-bid auction. City Council voted to accept the bid at its last meeting.
“You read the negative press. But if you grew up here you know it’s a great city. It’s a beautiful city,” Davis said Thursday. “All it needs to have, in my opinion, is just some quality housing.”
The sale also gets the cash-strapped city much needed money and puts the property on the tax rolls.
Davis, 46, was born and raised in Atlantic City and left when he was 12 years old. He played four years of basketball at Duke University and was a member of the back-to-back national championship teams of 1991 and 1992. He lived with college basketball legend Christian Laettner, and later played 68 games in the NBA.
He stands at 6 ft. 7 in. and towered over a short reporter.
Davis now lives in Washington D.C. and has been a developer for 20 years. He visits family in Atlantic City twice a month, and it was during those trips that he’d see the vacant Riverside “just sit here.”
“What got our attention is we really want to incorporate the green technologies,” Davis said of the company’s interest in the property. “So having some land mass, being able to put solar panels in the canopies above the parking, on the roof tops, along the water.”
Helping with the green theme are the giant wind turbines across the water. The land also has views of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Harrah’s Atlantic City.
On the “fastest timeline,” Urban Echo could break ground in three to six months, Davis said. The first phase of the project could include up to 600 rental units, he said.
Davis said Atlantic City could be a great place to stimulate the “green economy.” The development would include LED lighting and space for electric cars. If successful, the city could attract green technology manufacturing, he said.
Mayor Don Guardian said Urban Echo has a reputation for being “creative” and finding “quality housing at affordable prices.” Council President Marty Small said Urban Echo has been “consistent in their faith in Atlantic City.”
Davis, who wore a slick suit and carried a briefcase while walking a dirt path on the property, repeatedly mentioned wanting to help the city and create jobs.
“We feel a sense of urgency to get A.C. back on track,” he said. “You always want to come back home at some point...make a contribution.”