Years into its planning stages, the Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial is getting a sizable boost from a major public agency.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority announced Wednesday that it is awarding a “challenge” grant of $1 million to the memorial as a way to kick-start funding for the project from other groups and corporations.
A challenge grant is a commitment that the CRDA will donate $1 million upon the memorial committee raising another $2 million from other, private sources.
“This is something new for us,” CRDA Assistant Executive Director Susan Ney Thompson said at a press conference at Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s office at City Hall. “We felt that this project warranted a new approach for the CRDA. They have a lot of fundraising ahead of them and wanted them to be in a position to leverage our support.”
The site of the memorial, a pavilion on the Boardwalk between New York and Kentucky avenues, was announced in 2008, and the winning design, “Fractured Landscapes,” was chosen by a panel of architects from among more than 800 submissions in December 2010.
The project would cost an estimated $2 million to build and another $1.5 million to maintain, committee officials said.
There was also no start or completion date given, though when committee Vice President Kaleem Shabazz was asked about when work would begin, he joked, “Tomorrow.”
“We’re getting ready to start a very aggressive fundraising program to solicit the rest of the money needed,” Shabazz said. “The CRDA’s support is crucial. The challenge grant sets the foundation of credibility as we go forward.”
Langford, the honorary chairman of the committee, said that the memorial was “a special project that just compelled you to pay attention.”
“I suppose I’m wearing two — no, three — hats today,” Langford said. Besides his role as mayor and on the committee, “I’m also a member of the CRDA. And first of all I want to say how proud and thankful I am that CRDA felt in our infinite wisdom to support the project we’re here for today.
“Atlantic City hosts 32 million annual visitors and the Boardwalk is the busiest pedestrian boardwalk in the country,” Langford continued. “What better place to create a tourist attraction and also help to underscore the historical significance of a very teachable moment in history?”
Memorial Chairman Rabbi Gordon Geller, of Temple Emeth Shalom in Margate, praised Langford’s role and noted the final design, which features a buckled and broken boardwalk designed to evoke the destruction of the Holocaust, as “amazingly prescient after Hurricane Sandy.”
He also quoted the managing director of Yad Vashem, the international center for Holocaust study in Jerusalem, in saying that the memorial’s location on the Boardwalk would make it “one of the most important initiatives in the world for transmitting a legacy message of ‘Never Again’ to unprecedented multitudes for generations to come.”
Contact Steven Lemongello:
Follow Steven Lemongello on Twitter @SteveLemongello