ATLANTIC CITY — A plan to lure a much-needed supermarket to Atlantic City through tax breaks appears to be dead, but officials are hoping to offer other incentives to get the deal done.
The owners of Renaissance Plaza, the potential site of an A&P, are not eligible for a five-year tax abatement plan designed by city officials, Tax Assessor Novellette Hopkins said.
City officials hoped to phase in property-tax payments if A&P opened a supermarket at the Atlantic Avenue location, but tax guidelines do not allow the breaks in this particular case. The abatement would have eliminated any tax responsibility for the first year of A&P’s operation. The following year would give an 80 percent tax abatement. The breaks would continue to decrease by 20 percent for the remaining three years.
But the latest developments have not deterred city and state officials, who are seeking other alternatives.
Officials with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority are scheduled this week to consider allocating $400,000 to a “supplemental fund” to “negotiate and execute an agreement with the A&P Corp.,” their latest meeting agenda said.
CRDA spokesman Dan Douglas said late Friday that the fund would “essentially replace the tax abatement,” but did not have access to specific details of the proposed agreement.
Atlantic City residents have longed for a supermarket on the island since IGA vacated the same Renaissance Plaza site in 2006. IGA’s predecessor, Thriftway, closed its store in the same location in 2004. Mayor Lorenzo Langford pledged to bring a supermarket to Atlantic City as he ran for re-election last year, including publicly presenting two interested companies, separate from A&P, to establish businesses elsewhere in the city.
“This project is going to get done. It needs to get done,” said Councilman Steven Moore, who ran for council in 2007 on the issue that the city needed to establish another supermarket.
Applications for an abatement must be filed 30 days after a structure’s construction, improvement or conversion, city documents dictate. However, the owners cannot apply for the abatement because the building is already constructed, is not being converted from “its previous use” and any improvements scheduled at the site do not affect its physical structure, all requirements to qualify for the plan.
“A tax abatement is usually done before a project is completed,” Hopkins said, noting that the building in question is several years old.
Hopkins also noted the property’s manager, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. of New York, has a tax appeal pending with the city that contests the value of its property from 2004 through 2009. Because the site is technically owned by the CRDA, Ashkenazy officials believe the property should be exempt from taxes like other state-owned properties.
“Why would you give a tax abatement to someone who is essentially suing you?” she asked rhetorically. “It just doesn’t make much sense.”
A&P officials have refused to discuss a target date, or even discuss what year the company expected to open. Ashkenazy officials did not return calls and an e-mail seeking comment.
Moore said the city is researching other alternatives to ensure the A&P deal sees fruition.
Moore said another potential option is examining federal funding. The councilman said the city is seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow for funding to establish operations at the Renaissance Plaza. Those efforts, he said, are being headed by officials with the city’s Community Development Block Grants program, which handles federal money intended for low-income residents.
Lois Braithwaite, director of the city’s CDBG program, did not return a request to be interviewed.
Moore did not know how much federal money would be needed, but justified the request by noting that the supermarket, once operational, will create city jobs.
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