ATLANTIC CITY - Bader Field, the city's defunct municipal airport, will likely remain a part of the new Tourism District, an official with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority said.
Paul Weiss, chief counsel for the CRDA, identified the 142-acre parcel as the subject of the chief disagreement between the city and the state regarding the still-flexible boundaries of the Tourism District. But Weiss said Wednesday he expects the authority to stand firm on its belief that Bader Field should be included.
"I don't see Bader Field being carved out of the district," he said. "It's a tourism site. You're going to have thousands of people going there for a music festival (this summer). If that's not a tourism destination, what is?"
Weiss' comments came before the start of a meeting between CRDA officials and marketing partners of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. The ACCVA asked the CRDA to deliver a brief presentation about their plans for the Tourism District, a section of the city that will be run by the CRDA to help revitalize the city's tourism industry.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford has said in the past that he disagrees with Bader Field's inclusion in the district, and Weiss said the mayor is still holding strong on the issue. Earlier this month, the Langford administration put out a request for proposals for the development of Bader Field without advising CRDA officials.
Business Administrator Michael Scott did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
The site, which is zoned for casino development, is owned by the city. Regardless of who dictates the future development of the tract, Atlantic City government will receive all of the proceeds of any sale.
CRDA officials have been open to adjusting the default boundaries crafted by the state legislators who created the district.
Susan Ney Thompson, the authority's interim director, said Wednesday that CRDA officials will recommend to their board that Gardner's Basin be included in the district. The Northeast Inlet complex's exclusion from the original boundaries drew criticism from various voices in the city, including local government officials.
"That is a tourism destination," Thompson said of the site, which features the Atlantic City Aquarium.
The Atlantic City Historical Waterfront Foundation is a non-profit group that operates Gardner's Basin and the Atlantic City Aquarium. The foundation's executive director, Jack Keith, said he was pleased to hear of Thompson's support for its inclusion in the distict.
"Gardner's Basin is a family entertainment venue. We've been doing that for a very long time," he said. "Anything that's going to help us with that, we're in favor of."
Keith said security is not an issue at the basin, but he said services such as street maintenance and beautification will be helpful.
"And to the extent that capital money is involved, it will be a big help," he added.
Thompson has also said she understands those who argue the district stretches too far into the city's Chelsea sections and she would consider reducing its border from Kingston Avenue to near Albany Avenue.
While such changes would please city officials, there remains disagreement between the city and state on other issues, including Bader Field. Unifying the two fronts is key to the success of the district, Weiss said.
"If we don't have cooperation with the city, it's not going to work," Weiss said of the state's revitalization plan. "We'll see."
The CRDA has reached out to the community to answer questions and solicit feedback about their plan, particularly concerning the district's borders. On Monday, officials held the first of five town hall meetings with area residents about the plan. The next meeting will be held today. Meanwhile, officials continue to focus on cooperation and inclusion.
"You'll see the words consult and collaborate a dozen, maybe two dozen times," Weiss said referring to the Tourism District legislation. "We don't take those words lightly. My understanding of the history of this organization is we've never walked into the city and said, ‘Thanks for your recommendations, here's what we're doing, see ya.' I don't think the history changes with this legislation."
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