GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — A month before the scheduled opening of Stockton University’s new campus in Atlantic City, the college approved the purchase of the nearby former Atlantic Club casino for future expansion.

The board of trustees Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of buying the former casino property on Pacific Avenue, allowing Stockton President Harvey Kesselman to negotiate the deal on behalf of the college with Florida-based company TJM. A sale price will be revealed after closing, Kesselman said.

“We are exploring, obviously, all possibilities in Atlantic City with the hope to expand the campus there,” Kesselman said after the vote.

The former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel has been vacant since TJM purchased the property in 2014 for $13.5 million from an affiliate of Caesars Entertainment Corp., although various plans for the property have been considered, including two that would have turned it into a water park.

Kesselman emphasized Stockton is not buying a casino property. The former Atlantic Club is two blocks from the new Stockton University Atlantic City campus, which will include an academic building and a beachfront residential building with more than 500 beds.

“We’ve been discussing the possibility for several years now,” Kesselman said of the purchase.

He said that possibility became a reality after the college saw the demand the Atlantic City campus was drawing. Atlantic City campus housing is almost at 100 percent capacity, and more than 1,200 unique students are enrolled there, he said.

The Atlantic Club property features 11 upland lots, one beach lot, a nine-level parking garage containing 550,000 square feet for parking, about 50,000 square feet of office space and a 23-story hotel tower, according to the agenda. As part of the potential sale, TJM would demolish the hotel tower, but the parking garage would stay at the property.

Kesselman did not give a timeline for acquisition or development of the property but said it would play into the long-term renaissance of Atlantic City.

Stockton faced public backlash in 2015 after the college, under the leadership of then-President Herman Saatkamp, purchased the shuttered Showboat Atlantic City casino for $18 million but could not open the property due to deed restrictions. The college sold the building for $23 million in 2016 to Bart Blatstein, who opened it in 2016 as a noncasino resort.

Board members deliberated for more than an hour Wednesday before voting in favor of pursuing the property.

“Having spent so many years in this area, it’s deeply moving to me to be part of this effort right now,” said board Chairwoman Madeleine Deininger.

Board Trustee Leo Schoffer said the purchase of the Atlantic Club presents a chance for Stockton to lay the groundwork for its future in Atlantic City but will require a lot more study before a sale is finalized.

The agreement comes one week after the university announced a buyer and sale price for its Seaview Resort property in Galloway Township. Kesselman said the sale of that property freed up the funds needed for this purchase.

Stockton sold Seaview for $21.07 million to Florida-based KDG Capital LLC. It also recently sold for $390,000 a private home in Linwood that it purchased from the state for $150,000 last year.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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