First, let us stipulate that we understand the value of programs that help offenders transition from prison back into society as they complete their sentences.
And we admire the dedication of the people behind AC Miracle House, who want to create a halfway house in Atlantic City to house eight to 12 ex-offenders who are finishing sentences for nonviolent crimes.
But as admirable as this plan might be, the former "Showhouse at the Shore" on one of the main entryways to Atlantic City's Tourism District just seems like the wrong location for this project.
The large home was built by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in 2001 as an anchor for the redevelopment of the North Carolina Avenue corridor. It was intended to showcase "universal design," in which everything from the width of doorways and hallways to the location of light switches and other fixtures would be accommodating for people with disabilities. It was the featured "Showhouse at the Shore" for a 2002 fundraiser for the Ruth Newman Shapiro Cancer and Heart Fund.
Subsequently the building, at 602 North Carolina Ave., was used by Gilda's Club of South Jersey as a gathering place for people with cancer and their families.
In 2005, the CRDA sold the property to a Ventnor investor who intended to build a townhome project. That project was abandoned when the housing market collapsed. Since then, the property around the boarded-up "showhouse" has become a trash heap - and a strange welcome to Atlantic City for folks heading toward Resorts Casino Hotel or other Boardwalk gambling halls.
So finding some use for this building is a good idea. But this is no place for a halfway house. There are plenty of other empty buildings in Atlantic City that could be used for this project. It makes no sense to place such a facility next to a redevelopment project at an entryway to a resort struggling to rebuild itself.
Atlantic City certainly does more than its share when it comes to housing social welfare facilities. While many of them do a fine job helping people in need, they also strike a strange chord in a resort that is attempting to draw in tourists with the promise of carefree fun.
Indeed, city leaders are in the process of trying to find new homes, outside the Tourism District, for the John Brooks Recovery Center and Sister Jean's Kitchen - a recognition that social agencies and vacationing visitors are an uneasy mix. And, of course, the resort is also home to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
Atlantic City's casino and tourism industry isn't just the lifeblood of the resort; it is vitally important to the economy of New Jersey. Which is why it would seem the state - and especially the CRDA - have some responsibility here. Surely they can come up with a better use for this property - a use that will enhance, rather than clash with, the image the resort is trying to project. Ideas, anyone?