ATLANTIC CITY — From the gold accents to the over-the-top fountain that greeted guests, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort looked more like a palace than a casino.
Contractors for Hard Rock International and a group of investors are in the process of changing that.
Since July, workers have been removing the ruby-red minarets and onion domes that dominate the property’s facade as the transformation continues on Hard Rock’s newest property, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. The rebranded property is expected to open next summer.
The six two-ton stone elephants that once greeted patrons are now a distant memory.
“It’s a transformation every day when you walk through there,” said Matt Harkness, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. “Nobody is standing still; we are moving at 100 miles per hour.”
In the past, Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman, joked President and former owner Donald J. Trump created a “hell of a theme” and the group would have to spend more than $30 million to remove the theme from the property.
The Taj Mahal property, which was opened in 1990, has been reduced to a nondescript white building that the group will turn into its newest resort.
“We are through most of the interior demolition,” Joe Jingoli, a partner in the project, said Tuesday as Hard Rock unveiled its first sign, located at the corner of Absecon Boulevard and Virginia Avenue. “Outside you see a lot of the domes and stuff coming off it.”
The group, which includes investors Jack Morris and Jingoli, is spending more than $500 million renovating and rebranding the property. The project is expected to generate more than 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, according to the company.
“We’ve spent a lot time taking signs down, and now we are putting one up,” Harkness said.
“We have been doing a lot of demolition; now we are doing the building.”
The new property will feature two separate performance arenas, with seating totaling 7,000, and more than 2,400 slot machines.
As part of the property’s transformation, the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant will move to a larger, more central 400-seat location with an improved stage and beach access. The new 21,000-square-foot Hard Rock Cafe Atlantic City will employ more than 100 staff, up from the 55 employed at the current location.
While some rave about transformation, others, such as Joan Gincley, of Summit, wish the Taj Mahal was still open.
“It’s very sad that the Taj is being redone,” Gincley said as she walked along the Boardwalk on Tuesday. “It was so gorgeous; it was the nicest one here. The coloring inside, everything was beautiful.”