ATLANTIC CITY — Hard Rock International is proposing to use a section of public beach for a Hard Rock Cafe built over the Boardwalk as part of its new $275 million casino hotel.
An application for a New Jersey coastal construction permit says the company will start on a small scale, but plans to transform the complex into a full-fledged gaming resort by adding new casino space and a second hotel tower in a second phase.
“The Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos brand brings with it world-class hospitality, gaming, dining, retail and entertainment,” the application said. “The Atlantic City property will offer first-rate cuisine, exhilarating gaming experiences, high-profile entertainment and high-energy night life.”
Initially, there will be a modest 54,000 square feet of casino space and only 200 guest rooms. The casino floor would be expanded and another 650 hotel rooms would be added later, Hard Rock said in the application.
The Boardwalk casino would include 100,000 square feet of gaming space, 850 hotel rooms and a beachfront Hard Rock Cafe when fully developed. Other features would include upscale restaurants, bars, a rock-and-roll museum, a spa and beach cabanas.
Hard Rock International spokesman John Gogarty said Wednesday the company would not comment beyond what was disclosed in the documents. But new details emerged Wednesday after the state Department of Environmental Protection publicly released Hard Rock’s voluminous application for a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit, a key requirement for projects at the New Jersey shore.
The Press of Atlantic City first reported on the project Tuesday.
One of the more intriguing parts of the project calls for an elevated section of the Boardwalk to serve as the platform for a Hard Rock Cafe peering out over the ocean. The rebuilt Boardwalk would also include outdoor deck areas to allow the public to enjoy the beachfront.
“The combination of these public improvements will add significantly to the quantity and quality of public open space in this area of the beach and Boardwalk,” Hard Rock’s application stated. “These new and expanded open space amenities will replace a deteriorated and disturbed area of the beach and Boardwalk.”
In a related move, the city has filed a request with the Department of Environmental Protection for permission to divert one-third of an acre of public beach to accommodate the Hard Rock Cafe. The cafe would be connected to the main casino complex by an enclosed pedestrian walkway spanning the Boardwalk.
No construction schedule has been released yet. Hard Rock, owned by the Florida-based Seminole Indian tribe, is in the running to build the first of two smaller-scale Boardwalk casinos allowed in Atlantic City under a new state law.
Previously, New Jersey law required at least 500 hotel rooms for casino construction. One of the new smaller casinos could have as few as 200 rooms, while the other could start at that size but would be required to expand to 500 rooms within five years. Hard Rock has indicated it wants to build the larger of those two casinos.
“The addition of 850 hotel rooms and associated retail, dining and entertainment facilities to the Atlantic City economy will enhance the city’s ability to attract conventioneers and tourists as part of an overall regional effort to increase the average length of stay for visitors to Atlantic City,” Hard Rock said in its permit application.
Hard Rock is one of the best-known casino and entertainment brands in the world. Its portfolio includes 134 music-themed cafes and 15 casino hotels in 50 countries.
Hard Rock’s project is expected to help rejuvenate the slumping Atlantic City casino market by drawing a younger, wealthier customer base. One Atlantic City gaming executive, who formerly ran the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, said the Hard Rock brand brings an “edgy feel.”
“I’m a big fan of the Hard Rock brand,” said Don Marrandino, who now is president of the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. “If they build a Hard Rock like I know a Hard Rock can be — with edgy rooms, cool restaurants and great concert facilities — it could be a great thing for this city.”
Hard Rock plans to build at the southern end of the Boardwalk, at the foot of the Route 40 and Albany Avenue entryway. The partially built skeleton of the ill-fated Dunes Casino once stood on the site in the 1980s, before it was demolished after the project went bust.
The adjacent former Atlantic City High School site would be used for a 3,000-space parking garage serving the casino.
Hard Rock’s plans show the surrounding streets would need to be rebuilt and widened to create a new entryway to the casino hotel. A portion of the Albany Avenue right-of-way within the Capt. O’Donnell Park would be used for an underground tunnel for casino traffic flow.
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