GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Plans for a six-story, $64 million second phase of Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus inched closer to reality Wednesday as the college trustees approved the start of negotiations for development.
During a special meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the Atlantic City Development Corp. to proceed with the planning of the 405-bed residential complex across from O’Donnell Park, and to negotiate the terms of an agreement between the entities.
The resolution comes less than a year after the college opened the first phase of its Atlantic City project in September, a three-story academic building and a 533-bed residence hall along Albany Avenue.
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said the Phase II development is contingent upon the state allocating an additional $5 million in annual aid to the college in its 2020 budget.
“We are the least funded of the state colleges,” Kesselman said, along with Montclair State University. “We need the support of the state to make this all work financially for the students and for the region.”
Kesselman said they will know by the beginning of July, when the state budget is due, just how rapidly the project will advance.
“The governor, as well as the Senate president, one thing they clearly have agreed on is Stockton’s role in Atlantic City, and I could not be more pleased that their support is there,” he said.
Negotiations are just beginning with AC Devco and more information will be released when it is available, Kesselman said.
The second-phase plans were unveiled in March by AC Devco, which at the time presented them as a courtesy to the city’s Planning Board before going before the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for site plan approval this month. Stockton officials kept quiet at the time and would not confirm any agreements with AC Devco regarding the second phase.
On Wednesday, Kesselman said there was an “incredible amount of thoughtful dialogue” that went on before approving the resolution.
“This might be one meeting, but it’s a culmination of months and months and literally months of discussion on the next phase of the Atlantic City project,” he said.
The CRDA, which has oversight in the Tourism District, including the Chelsea neighborhood where Stockton is located, approved AC Devco’s site plan at its May meeting. The developer has applied to the state for a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit for the construction.
AC Devco President Christopher Paladino was not at Wednesday’s trustees meeting and was not immediately available for comment.
After the meeting, Stockton spokeswoman Diane D’Amico said the project will likely be a lease-to-purchase agreement with AC Devco, similar to what exists now with Phase I. She said under the current agreement, the housing payments go toward paying down the lease. Tuition is not affected, she said.
Paladino said recently that AC Devco would approach the CRDA board at its June 18 meeting to request a loan of $10 million to help with funding. He expects to break ground in September and finish by summer 2021.
The expansion is part of Stockton’s plan to grow enrollment to more than 10,000 by next fall. Kesselman said he would like to see another 400 residents and 1,000 students in Atlantic City. He said this year, there are more combined applicants from North Jersey and out of state than from the southern seven counties.
“We know definitively that our presence in Atlantic City has been one of the catalysts of that happening,” Kesselman said. “We should generate more rejuvenation of some of the neighborhood shops, which you’re beginning to see on Ventnor Avenue and the like.”
Kesselman said the third, “critical” phase of the Atlantic City project will be the development of the Boardwalk commuter lot directly across from the existing beachfront residential building.