ATLANTIC CITY - One of the architectural ironies of this seashore resort is that many of the buildings, including some casinos, are oriented toward the land side and rudely turn their backs to the ocean that inspired the city's name.
But now comes One Atlantic, a new special events center and lavish wedding chapel that not only peers out over the ocean but is built right on top of it - 300 feet out and four stories above.
Even the bathrooms feature million-dollar views of the water.
Alluding to the couples who will get married here, the owners of One Atlantic are fond of saying that there may be no better view for saying "I do."
"They're going to go, ‘Wow!'" said co-developer Jon Weinrott, president of the Philadelphia catering firm Peachtree & Ward. "It's definitely a wow."
Floor-to-ceiling windows 25 feet high reveal miles of coastline stretching all the way to Cape May County. One Atlantic juts so far out into the ocean that the waves are closer to shore than the building is.
"There aren't a lot of spots in the world where you can do that, especially when you're not in a boat," Wesley Adams, marketing director of One Atlantic, said while watching the waves break 80 feet below.
One Atlantic is perched on the top floor of The Pier at Caesars, the high-end Boardwalk shopping mall overlooking the ocean. The special events center occupies prime space that was empty since the mall's opening in summer 2006.
Weinrott and co-developer the Icon Group of New York are investing millions - they declined to disclose the exact cost - in a project that depends on posh affairs at a time when recession-weary consumers are cutting back on luxuries in favor of essentials.
Nearly 70 events have been booked so far, mostly weddings. Corporate galas, charity events and bar/bat mitzvahs will supplement the business. Adams explained that those are the types of "milestone events" that are somewhat resistant to the weak economy.
"I think our business is exceeding our expectations," he said. "I would say we're on par with our pre-recession expectations, which is fantastic. People are still willing to spend money and put in the effort because they want to celebrate these milestone events in their lives."
One Atlantic is one of the few major projects built recently in construction-starved Atlantic City. It joins the Tuscany House at the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City and the Carriage House in Galloway Township among the upscale wedding venues that have opened in the area in the past decade.
The first wedding is scheduled for Feb. 27. Lavish weddings will start at about $50,000 and top out at more than $100,000, according to Terry Lemiere, director of sales.
Another source of business will be corporate and social functions tied to the casino industry. One Atlantic's first corporate event, which took place Saturday night, was a cocktail party attended by hundreds of high rollers from Caesars Atlantic City.
Painter Michael Godard, known as the "Rock Star of the Art World," according to his Web site, was scheduled to appear at the Caesars party and raffle off one of his works to benefit a cancer foundation in memory of his late daughter, Paige.
Erin Chamberlin, vice president of marketing for Caesars, said VIP events at One Atlantic will help the casino's parent company, Harrah's Entertainment Inc., cultivate customers across the country. Invitations were sent to people who live as far away as Boston and Atlanta.
"We've said that this is such a cool event and such a cool place that it will give us an opportunity to bring new VIPs to the Atlantic City market, too," Chamberlin said.
Joining Weinrott in emphasizing the wow factor, Chamberlin believes that the partygoers will be stunned by One Atlantic's oceanfront location.
"I personally thought that someone has finally taken advantage of the incredible views. It seems like we had been building inward instead of taking advantage of the beach and ocean," she said.
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