A Florida investor has emerged as the new buyer of the Madison House hotel, but his plans for the historic building remain unclear, other than it appears he will not demolish it.

Eli Hadad has signed a contract to buy the Atlantic City hotel for $4 million and has 30 days to close the deal, according to Robert Salvato, the real estate agent handling the sale.

"It's clear to me, at the moment, that he has no plans to knock it down," Salvato said of Hadad.

This is the first time Hadad's name has been made public as the Madison's buyer. Hadad used a representative to buy the hotel for the minimum bid of $4 million during an auction Saturday. There were no other bidders.

Neither Hadad nor his representative, Ed Barkow, could be reached for comment Thursday. During Saturday's auction, Barkow said he believed the shuttered Madison would be reopened as a hotel under its new ownership. Barkow declined to disclose Hadad's name during the auction.

Salvato described Hadad as a wealthy investor who owns hotels in Florida and the Dominican Republic. Although Barkow indicated Saturday that the Madison may be reopened as a hotel, Salvato said nothing is definite at this point.

"He's buying it strictly as an investment," Salvato said. "He may reopen it as a hotel. At the moment, he's not disclosing what he wants to do with it."

Graced by Colonial Revival architecture, the Madison features 126 suites, marble floors in its quaint lobby and a grand stairway modeled after the one at Philadelphia's Independence Hall. The hotel is being sold by George Levin, a principal of the Madison House Group, the owner since 1984.

The Madison first opened as a luxury hotel in 1929, just months after the stock market crash plunged the nation into the Depression. It weathered the Depression, made it through a bout with bankruptcy in the 1960s and survived the arrival of the casinos beginning in the 1970s and '80s.

It was its partnership with the old Sands Casino Hotel that allowed the Madison to continue operating after the gambling era began. The Sands used the adjacent Madison as a companion hotel for its customers, sinking $7 million into the boutique property in 2004 to transform it into all-suite lodging.

But when the Sands closed in 2006, so did the Madison. Since then, the Madison has been sealed up, except for a brief time when it served as a youth hostel for foreign workers holding seasonal jobs in the city's tourism market.

The 14-story Madison overlooks the beach block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Salvato speculated that Hadad may try to capitalize on future development plans for a nearly 20-acre oceanfront parcel across the street from the Madison. The property is where the old Sands once stood and now serves as a landscaped park decorated with art sculptures.

"That's a hot spot right now," Salvato said of development possibilities for the old Sands site, which overlooks the Boardwalk in the center of town.

Once the land is ready for redevelopment, the temporary park and artwork will be removed. Investors Mitchell Mekles and Brian Popper, of the Fort Lee, Bergen County-based, Mitchell Enterprises, have proposed buying the site for $30.6 million.

Mekles and Popper have not yet completed the deal. They have not disclosed their plans for the land.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:


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