ATLANTIC CITY — Bader Field, the 143-acre piece of land that has resisted efforts to sell it despite being considered a prized asset for the city, is expected to go up for sale again.
The former municipal airport along Route 40 near Chelsea Heights has been the site of a variety of projects, bids and potential sales in the past 20 years, with few coming to fruition.
Now the city will welcome purchasing and redevelopment proposals on the property for the first time since the state took over control of the city’s finances.
City Council approved a resolution July 11 authorizing the issuance of a request for proposals to purchase and redevelop the land. The RFP was being revised as of Friday, according to state officials, and has not yet been issued.
For some neighbors and businesses across Route 40 in Chelsea Heights, a buyer of Bader Field would be a great development — for the neighborhood and for themselves.
Omar Eamoun, of Ventnor, said he would like to see “something for young people” go to the site that sits across Route 40 from where he works as a cook at DeMarco’s Market on Crossan Avenue.
“Of course I would like to see something there, but it would have to be good for everybody,” he said.
Jackie Winston, who lives in Chelsea Heights, said a buyer using the land would help drive business for her and bring more people to her neighborhood. She owns the Atlantic City 24-hour Pet Hotel on Trenton Avenue, and for the past 11 years, has heard the proposed ideas for the land.
But she hasn’t heard much about what could be coming this time.
“Atlantic City has to offer more for the families,” she said.
The city resolution was approved in a 5-4 vote. Of the opponents, Councilman Frank Gilliam was the most vocal, saying he was “totally opposed” to the sale of Bader Field and wants the city to hold onto its assets. He argued the city should instead look at redevelopment designation or long-term leases for the property.
“That way, it allows us to have some say in the development process,” Gilliam said at the July meeting. “At the end of the day, Atlantic City is in need of revenue.”
Council President Marty Small, who voted to welcome offers, said during the meeting it would let the city see if there is any new public interest in the land. It also would keep the bidding process transparent, something he doesn’t believe would happen if state officials decided to sell.
“Let’s face it: If the state of New Jersey decided tomorrow that they wanted Bader Field to be given to anyone, under the law, they can,” he said.
Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, said in an email July 11 that “developers remain interested in Bader Field and we want to do all we can to maximize the value of this asset for the city.”
The state has not commented further on whether there is a buyer in mind.
Last year, the city put Bader Field up for auction with a minimum bid of $155 million. The city received two bids for the land, one for $50 million. It ultimately rejected the bids.
Despite its perceived value, the offers for Bader Field have been lower since 2008, when Penn National Gaming, a Pennsylvania-based company, offered Atlantic City $800 million to buy the land and create several casinos.
In September, the city pitched a plan to have the Municipal Utilities Authority buy Bader Field for $110 million, which would generate money for the city but also keep the water system in public hands. The state rejected the plan and took control of the city’s finances as part of the takeover.
Eamoun said Friday he doesn’t have a preference of what would go in the site, but it would have to be something that could be used for several months out of the year.
“Something to bring jobs,” he said.