The historic Madison hotel in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY - The sad saga of the Madison Hotel continues, with the historic hotel facing yet another sale and more uncertainty about its future.

Shuttered since 2006, the 14-story building appeared to have finally found a new owner when it was sold at auction in May for $4 million. But the deal later collapsed, forcing another sale. Other attempts in recent years to sell the hotel also failed.

The property is now listed at $5 million, a real estate broker said. The asking price was reduced from the $5.25 million that the hotel's owner, George Levin, was originally seeking this time around.

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"He's willing to negotiate," William Boland, a Ventnor real estate agent handling the latest sale, said of Levin.

Boland noted that the Madison House is attracting attention from would-be buyers. One undisclosed potential buyer is considering reopening the Madison as high-end lodging if he can work out a franchise agreement with a major hotel chain, Boland said.

"It would be fantastic for the city," Boland said of the possibility of the Madison being resurrected. "It's a beautiful property. The more time I spend in it, the more I appreciate it."

Boland said that the most promising potential buyer has experience renovating historic hotels. However, a facelift would be expensive, and it would probably take about a year before the Madison could be reopened, he added.

Despite its stately Colonial Revival architecture, the Madison has mostly been closed since its affiliation ended with the old Sands Casino Hotel. The Sands used the adjacent Madison as a companion hotel for its gamblers, sinking $7 million into the boutique property in 2004 to transform it into all-suite lodging.

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

After it opened in 1929, the Madison survived the Depression, a bout with bankruptcy in the 1960s and the arrival of Atlantic City's casinos. Unlike most of the city's other posh old hotels, the Madison wasn't demolished to make room for new casinos in the 1970s and '80s. It was its partnership with the Sands that allowed it to continue to operate.

Thomas Barnes, of Baltimore, said he considered buying the Madison when it went back on the market. He soon realized he would be unable to raise the financing to acquire and renovate it.

"I just don't have the money, so I would have to bow out," Barnes said. "For me, it's a pipe dream."

Barnes said he was attracted by the Madison's "old-world charm." Outside, the hotel is accented by its red-brick facade, arched windows and a large cupola-like structure adorning the roof. On the inside, the building is graced with marble floors, old-fashioned chandeliers and a grand stairway modeled after the one at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Although the Madison is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which gives it protected status, there is no guarantee that it could not be demolished. Pinnacle Entertainment, a Las Vegas-based company, once had plans to buy the Madison and then tear it down to make room for a proposed $1.5 billion casino megaresort. Pinnacle later abandoned the casino project.

Located about a block from the ocean, the Madison overlooks the southern tip of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just off the busy Pacific Avenue casino strip. Across the street is the site where the old Sands Casino Hotel once stood.

The Sands site was recently sold to an investment group that has not yet revealed its plans for the property. Barnes and Boland said it is plausible that a new owner of the Madison might somehow capitalize on redevelopment plans for the Sands site to bring business to the hotel.

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