Plans to transform a portion of The Wave parking garage into an artistic hub anchoring an Atlantic City Arts District are slated to move forward at an accelerated pace, according to bid documents related to the project.

Late last year, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority finalized an agreement to lease the first-floor space to Richard Stockton College's Noyes Museum of Art at no cost. Stockton is responsible for recruiting the artists who will work in the 12 small studios and and whose work will be showcased in several galleries for the public to buy.

CRDA has committed to spending as much as $2 million to fit out the space that was once expected to be used as a retail area tying into the nearby outlets. Instead, with a renewed focus on developing an Arts District, CRDA is seeking bids for companies willing to construct the inside of the 17,000-square-foot space to accommodate studios, galleries, a museum shop and a small cafe. Bids are due Feb. 20.

Officials previously said they hoped to see the new space open this summer, but documents make it clear that a summer opening is more than a suggestion. Bid materials state that work must be completed within 100 days of commencement and no time extensions will be given. Michael Cagno, executive director of the Noyes Museum, said an Aug. 1 opening has been targeted.

"Time is of the essence," Cagno said.

Cagno said he's in discussions with artists who might be interested in renting out studio and gallery space, but no official agreements will be made until after CRDA receives the bids.

Architectural depictions of the project by SJ Fenwick Associates of Linwood show the main entranceway to the building at Mississippi and Fairmount streets with a new sign overheard and the the word, "ARTWAVE." A museum shop is shown directly to the right of the entranceway and a cafe is to the left. Only two galleries are described — one for student work and another is labeled as a fair trade gallery.

"We're not just looking for the traditional painter to fill these studios. There could be ceramics or a graphic designers or a jewelry maker," Cagno said. "We're targeting both professional and emerging artists. When you consider that the cost of renting space in Philadelphia and New York is very expensive, Atlantic City could provide an alternative option."

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