The vision of a key part of Atlantic City’s future came into view bit by bit. Each piece made complete sense on its own, enough to wonder why it wasn’t done before. As they added up, one by one, the big picture of a lively, appealing northeast neighborhood became visible — an oceanfront cityscape so valuable and readily doable that surely the question is when, not if, it materializes.
The famous Boardwalk, better than ever instead of storm-smashed, continuing past TEN and running along the waters of Absecon Inlet toward Gardner’s Basin. A 6,000-square-foot Flagship Resort deck along those boards for relaxing with a panoramic ocean/inlet view.
Large properties ready for business, assembled by the CRDA or already in the hands of savvy redevelopers such as Bart Blatstein — including an ocean pier. His major acquisition, the former Showboat, already operational and ready to step up.
Not far away, 250 market-rate apartments, suitable for millennials. Other developers restoring a city block. A multi-attraction family amusement center anchored by a 350-foot vertical roller coaster.
At the neighborhood’s southwest border, the year-round, climate-controlled observation wheel is rising from historic Steel Pier. And on the bridge over the Boardwalk between the pier and the soon-to-be Hard Rock casino hotel, an elevated 30,000-plus-square-foot space with window walls on the ocean, beach and boards has been waiting two decades for this time.
The Press Editorial Board asked for this tour of development sites. Reading about them and understanding the opportunities and challenges are good, but seeing them and their relationship to each other makes clearer how they will work together for the residents of and visitors to this future neighborhood. We found that convincing.
There are major challenges, of course. City Planning Director Elizabeth Terenik and Licensing and Inspections Director Dale Finch also showed us drug-infested blocks with abandoned houses, used needles littering porches and back yards.
Other projects address that piece of the reinvention puzzle. Some of the city’s 500 or so abandoned houses have been found unsafe and demolished. More await action.
Brown’s Park is being changed from a haven for drugs and crime into an inviting place with playground and amphitheater. City police are committed to provide the oversight needed so it serves the many families living nearby, Terenik said.
Just to get these and many other projects underway, she had to convince grant-making agencies this city administration was serious about getting things done. The agencies lost patience in prior years when grants they gave the city were not spent.
Now a challenge is Terenik herself, whose can-do, enthusiastic leadership on redevelopment made her one of the stars of Mayor Don Guardian’s administration. At the end of this month, she will become business administrator in her hometown of Middle Township.
Guardian and Terenik have gotten lots of important parts of Atlantic City’s transformation rolling. We hope he can find and appoint a director who will build on that momentum.