One of the few remaining historic hotels from Atlantic City’s heyday as the "Queen of Resorts” will be transformed into an upscale condominium complex if the would-be buyer completes the deal.
Plans also call for remodeling the Madison House with a 1930s theme reminiscent of the original decor of the stately 14-story building. The Madison was a luxury hotel when it opened in 1930, just months after the 1929 stock market crash plunged the nation into the Great Depression.
Bruce Richard, who has been serving as caretaker of the now-vacant hotel, said the sale is scheduled to close Aug. 20. The buyer’s name is not being disclosed at this time.
“He wants to remain a silent partner,” Richard said. “I know he wants to turn it into deluxe condos and add a 1930s motif. All the public spaces will be in a 1930s motif.”
Marie Cooke, a Margate real estate agent representing the buyer, also declined to divulge the person’s name. Cooke said the buyer has agreed to pay more than $5 million, but final details must be worked out before the sale is wrapped up.
“It’s not a deal yet,” she said. “The papers are drawn up. I’m trying to get it closed, but we’re still ironing things out. To me, it looks like we’re 80 percent there.”
Cooke confirmed plans to convert the hotel into condos, although she noted that the buyer would keep the top floor for himself. Some of the condos would be available for rental, just like hotel rooms. The Madison’s former bar and a restaurant would sport a 1930s theme, she said.
There had been fears about the Madison House’s future ever since the hotel closed in 2006. The old Sands Casino Hotel had used the Madison as a companion hotel for gamblers, but when the Sands shut down in 2006, so did the Madison. Sands spent $7 million in 2004 to transform the Madison into a boutique property, downsizing the hotel from 250 rooms to 126 mini-suites.
Despite its difficulties, the Madison has been a survivor. It weathered the Depression, the arrival of casinos in the 1970s and a bout with bankruptcy during its turbulent 82-year history.
The Madison is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving it protected status, but hardly an ironclad guarantee that it would not be eventually demolished. It is a throwback to the days of posh Boardwalk hotels, but most of those historic landmarks were demolished in the 1970s and ’80s to make way for a new wave of casinos.
Located about a block from the ocean, the Madison overlooks the southern end of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just off the busy Pacific Avenue casino strip. Clad in red-brick construction, it is designed in the Colonial Revival style. Inside, it has marble floors, chandeliers and a grand staircase modeled after the one in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
“It’s a nice building. It’s laid out very nicely,” said Joshua Levin, owner of Levin Commercial Real Estate in Atlantic City. “It’s in a great spot. With the right operator, the right renovations and the right price, it should do well.”
Levin said he represented a potential buyer who wanted to turn the Madison into a combination condo-hotel, featuring new entertainment attractions and restaurants. Ultimately, the buyer thought the project was too risky, Levin said.
Rivka Nagel, another Margate real estate agent, said she represents a potential buyer who wants to convert the Madison into a seashore retreat for church groups.
“The buyer would use it for charity,” Nagel said, declining to reveal any names. “Some people from the church would come to relax. It would not be a commercial business.”
Nagel said her buyer had negotiated a purchase contract, but the hotel owner, the Madison House Group, has been changing the price, making it more challenging to nail down a final deal. The last asking price was $5 million, she said.