Many have wondered what exactly does the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority do?
The following are excerpts from this past year’s activities. Seeing the variety of activity in which the CRDA is involved will give you insight to how important this organization is to the future of Atlantic City.
Here is some of what Gov. Chris Christie had to say: “The revitalization of Atlantic City remains a key priority of our administration, and the CRDA has been a driving force in our campaign to position Atlantic City for sustainable, long-term economic development and job creation. Many projects spearheaded by the CRDA — which includes new commercial and residential construction, demolition of blighted structures, public safety measures and repairs, and improvement to infrastructure ranging from crucial access roads to the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk — have demonstrated our long growing investment in the future of this great city.”
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri stated: “Mission: Most Possible. That’s how I’d characterize the aggressive task put before the CRDA to diversify Atlantic City’s economy, spur private investment, foster partnerships and lay the foundation for Atlantic City to become the epitome of the ‘Jersey Comeback.’ We have made significant progress on many short-term initiatives for the Tourism District. The Boardwalk is cleaner and safer than it was a year ago. Together with our partners at the Atlantic City Alliance, we have transformed vacant lots into temporary art installations: the Special Improvement District has created pocket parks throughout the Tourism District, and together, we even created seven beach volleyball courts. Year one of the Tourism District has proved that the bar is not set too high. The future is now in Atlantic City. Mission: Most Possible.”
James Kehoe, the CRDA board chairman, said: “This has been an extraordinary year with enormous challenges placed upon CRDA. It began with the delivering of the Master Plan for Atlantic City’s Tourism District and the selection of John Palmieri to be the executive director. The expansion of the Ambassador Program was essential to meet the challenges of the Clean and Safe initiatives. The success in meeting the challenges of Clean and Safe signaled a new day in Atlantic City — a day that investors took note of. Success is achieved through strategy. With unprecedented vision, support and leadership from Gov. Chris Christie, the CRDA’s board will continue to steward the economic health and redevelopment of Atlantic City’s Tourism District.”
The Atlantic City skyline is being redefined with Revel, Margaritaville, Bass Pro Shops, Harrah’s Resort’s conference center, the Wave Garage and Atlantic Cape Community College.
Revel provides a unique product to the greater, more global vision of Atlantic City as a resort destination. Parrotheads will celebrate the construction of a Margaritaville on the beach fronting Resorts Casino Hotel. The CRDA’s Wave Garage is a state-of-the-art facility visible directly to inbound traffic. The Bass Pro Shops has chosen Atlantic City for its first New Jersey store. Harrah’s conference center will support an underserved corporate meeting niche in northeast Atlantic City.
The Master Plan offers the opportunity to activate Pacific Avenue and a variety of side streets and to encourage pedestrian exploration of the Boardwalk.
While The Walk created a pedestrian connection from the Convention Center to the Boardwalk along Michigan Avenue, the development along Mississippi Avenue helps to complete the loop for a “walkable city.”
CRDA completed a road-widening project along Mississippi Avenue to accommodate development of an Arts District, anchored by a $30 million parking garage and mixed-use facility. The ground floor level fronting Mississippi Avenue, just one block south of the walk, contains more than 16,000 square feet designated for arts retail. CRDA executed a contract in December with the Noyes Museum at Richard Stockton College to lease and manage the space.
The Tourism District’s Master Plan also singled out the opportunity to revitalize the city’s main street — in this case, Atlantic Avenue. The arrival of the city’s own major supermarket was in May.
The Atlantic Avenue facade program will provide business and property owners needed assistance for exterior “facelifts.” Seven blocks, from Indiana to Tennessee avenues, have been identified in the first phase of the program. A partnership with Main Street, Atlantic City and the Atlantic County Improvement Authority will help to fill the gaps in creating housing opportunities above the storefront businesses on the ground level.
The CRDA, the city of Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Metropolitan Business and Citizen’s Association, the Atlantic City Rotary Club, the Board of Education and the multicultural parents and students of the Texas Avenue school united under one common goal to take back their park from the gangs and drug dealers and reclaim it for the children and residents of the neighborhood.
The strides made by the CRDA and its partners throughout the Tourism District in the first year of the Master Plan have been admirable. One consistent theme resonated throughout the project: engagement with the community, be it the tourism community, the business community or the residential community. CRDA wisely expanded its operation this year to create community partnership development.
The CRDA continues to work with the Casino Control Commission, Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Atlantic City Alliance to develop a set of workable, reliable and relevant metrics to consistently monitor the health of the Tourism District.
The Master Plan is a road map for the Tourism District. Fortunately through their investment partners, their development partners, state agencies, elected delegates and the vision of the state Legislature and Christie, the CRDA has support and resources to successfully complete the mission.
Atlantic City will no longer solely be known as a gaming town. It is truly a place to do anything and do everything! Atlantic City will soon reclaim its crown as the “Queen of Resorts” and prove to be a great place to live, to work and to invest.
Pinky’s Corner appears every Thursday in The Press. The Pinky’s Corner radio show airs 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on WOND 1400-AM. His TV show, “WMGM Presents Pinky,” airs 7:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC TV40. E-mail Pinky at: email@example.com.