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How the Hard Rock could benefit from the South Inlet projects

From the Follow the transformation of Trump Taj Mahal into Hard Rock Atlantic City series
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ATLANTIC CITY — When Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort closed in October, the future of the South Inlet section of the Boardwalk seemed bleak.

With no gaming north of Resorts Casino Hotel, and Showboat reopened only as a hotel, that portion of the Boardwalk was barren with little in the way of attractions to draw people in. But that will change in summer 2018, as Hard Rock is expected to open a new property at the empty Taj Mahal in a plan to re-invigorate the darkest part of the Boardwalk.

The increase in people is expected to provide a needed boost to neighboring redevelopment projects such as Boraie Development’s $81 million residential complex and Bart Blatstein’s Showboat.

“This will immediately raise the investment potential for that part of the city,” said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College.

The Taj, which closed Oct. 10, is being sold to a group of investors led by Hard Rock International. The site will be rebranded as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City as part of a $300 million purchase and renovation expected to create 3,000 temporary and permanent jobs, seller Carl Icahn said.

Wasseem Boraie, developer of The Beach at South Inlet, thinks Hard Rock’s investment in the city will benefit his project, which will feature 250 apartments with hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances on a 4-acre grassy lot bound by Atlantic, Pacific, New Jersey and Connecticut avenues.

“I think the Hard Rock has an exceptional brand and will bring a first-class management group,” said Boraie, vice president of the New Brunswick, Middlesex County-based developer. “For our neighborhood to have 3,000 jobs and a couple of million people coming down, it’s going to be wonderful for the people who live at The Beach at South Inlet.”

The addition of Hard Rock to the area shows developers believe the city’s best days are ahead of them, said Mayor Don Guardian.

“Having professional investors like the Hard Rock International group invest in the Taj Mahal will reinvigorate that end of the Boardwalk, which includes the Showboat and the Steel Pier,” Guardian said. “All the pieces are coming back together one by one.”

Anthony Catanoso, president of Steel Pier, called the announcement a “game changer” for the resort.

“Right now are connected to a closed non-casino non-hotel,” Catanoso said, adding that Jim Allen, Hard Rock CEO, gave him his first lease for the pier when he was purchasing agent for Trump’s properties in Atlantic City in 1992. “We go from that to one of the best brands in the business.”

Blatstein called Hard Rock’s purchase of the Taj Mahal “the best possible outcome for Atlantic City.” The Showboat is next door to the Taj and is attached to the closed casino by a bridge.

Asked whether the Hard Rock project would be a positive for his property, Blatstein quipped: “What do you think?”

The Hard Rock brand will help attract a younger crowd to that area of the Boardwalk, Perniciaro said.

“Jim Allen is a music man. He will help attract younger customers and also bring his players from Florida and other properties for junkets,” he said.

In addition to Allen, who has a house in Linwood, the deal sees the return of developer Joseph Jingoli, who lived in the Chelsea section of the city for a decade, to the South Inlet. In 2015, City Council voted at the urging of then-President Frank Gilliam to name Jingoli and Jack Morris conditional redevelopers of the Southeast Inlet. The move was criticized at the time as being rushed, and the resolution was rescinded the next year.

“It shows that I had a vision to pick the right people for the right time to help Atlantic City thrive,” Gilliam said.

While not yet open, TEN owner Glenn Straub hopes to siphon some of the people who are drawn to Hard Rock to his clubs, restaurants and other amenities.

“I know that they will attract people, which is good for anyone’s business,” Straub said. “We will try to show them what we have to offer.”

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Started working in newsrooms when I was 17 years old. Spent 15 years working for Gannett New Jersey before coming to The Press of Atlantic City in April 2015.

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