A mostly vacant 10-acre tract of land in the Venice Park section of Atlantic City could be home to a business park anchored by light-manufacturing companies that city officials hope will diversify the resort’s economy.
“We’ve been trying for years to diversify employment in Atlantic City by bringing in a couple of medium-sized employers so people can work in fields other than the casinos or government,” said Keith Mills, Atlantic City’s director of planning and development. “With the balance of the tract we’d hope to relocate businesses currently in residential neighborhoods that either need more space or have activities that are not conducive to their current locations.”
However, significant work would have to be done before development begins. Infrastructure construction to support the Riverside Business Park, including roads and utilities, is expected to cost between $7 million and $8 million.That estimate doesn’t include the cost of constructing a marina at the edge of the property that abuts the bay.
The city has applied to the state for an environmental permit to construct a road stretching 2,030 feet around the edge of the property, located on the north side of the White Horse Pike near the windmills operated by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority. The plans call for North Riverside Drive, a deteriorated road that dead-ends, to be demolished and replaced with a extended 30-foot wide roadway that would line the outer edge of the property, according to its permit application.
Creating the business park would provide an opportunity for the city to cluster a business community. City officials plan to reach out to businesses located on Fairmount Avenue in the Ducktown section of the city, as well as businesses on Adriatic Avenue near Bungalow Park. Auto repair shops are clustered on Fairmount Avenue, and construction companies are clustered on Adriatic Avenue.
“The shops are so small and on a very busy roadway. They impede traffic with mechanics sometimes even checking cars on the street,” Mills said. “We’d have an opportunity to move at least a couple of them and then redevelop those areas for housing to make for a more consistent housing situation.”
The state permit would also allow for the construction of utilities as well as a marina with several boat slips. Mills said the city has applied for a $150,000 planning grant to construct bulkheads, docks and complete dredging and could be eligible for more funding if it wins the initial grant. Eventually, the city would hope to add a boat launch for local residents.
Those improvements will hopefully make the site more attractive to developers. If approved for the permit, construction could begin within six months. Marketing the site to individual businesses or a master developer would begin soon after, Mills said.
About 85 percent of the property is owned by the city, which has no intention of disturbing the other land owners, Mills said. The Atlantic County Utilities Authority operates nearby. A gas station and the Humane Society of Atlantic County are also located on the property.
Now mostly vacant, the site was once home to a few gas stations and automotive repair shops, as well as a handful of homes. The homes, however, were situated closed to the White Horse Pike so most of the property was never set up to accommodate the capacity needed for sewer, electric, gas, and water.
A $125,000 grant already secured by the city would cover about half the cost of installing water lines, and the city plans to apply to the state Economic Development Agency for additional funding to support the infrastructure installation. As part of the grant application, Mills said the city hopes to secure letters of intent from businesses interested in locating at the property.
The city is in discussions with light manufacturing companies that could anchor the property. City officials declined to name the companies.
Environmental remediation would have to take place before the land could be developed. When gas stations on the property closed, their 4,000-gallon gasoline tanks were left behind. Those have since been removed, but some contamination was found in the soil. To date, the city has not been successful in securing funding to remove the contamination.
The application for the environmental permit is on file for review at the city clerk’s office. Members of the public have until July 18 to comment on the plans, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
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