ATLANTIC CITY — Phase 2 of the Stockton University Atlantic City campus will go before the full Casino Reinvestment Development Authority board for land use approval May 21, after a hearing on the application Thursday.
Hearing officer Lance Landgraf, director of planning and development for CRDA, took testimony from experts for the developers of the $64 million project, the Atlantic City Development Corp. That entity developed the first phase that included an academic building, student housing and a parking garage for Stockton. It also developed South Jersey Gas’ new headquarters in the Chelsea section, next to the campus.
Landgraf will make a recommendation to the full CRDA board on whether to approve the land use. He is expected to fully support it, as it does not require any variances.
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If all goes well, AC Devco will approach the CRDA board at its June 18 meeting to request a loan of $10 million to help with funding, said AC Devco President Christopher Paladino. He expects to break ground in September and finish by summer 2021.
“We have to be vigilant and keep the momentum going,” said Paladino. “Cities are fragile places, constantly reinventing and never finished.”
CRDA has land-use and zoning authority over the city’s Tourism District, which includes both the current Stockton campus and the proposed expansion site.
AC Devco intends to demolish the former Eldridge Building, between Atlantic, South Hartford and South Providence avenues, and build a six-story, 105-unit dormitory with the potential for retail space on the ground floor. The building would provide living space for 405 students.
Its first floor will have extra height built into it, so it could accommodate retail space if wanted in the future. It will start out as dormitory space but will be built high enough off the street and with partly opaque windows so passers-by cannot see into the rooms, said architect Stephen L. Schoch, of Kitchen & Associates in Collingswood, Camden County.
Stockton and AC Devco have not signed an agreement, which university President Harvey Kesselman has said is dependent on securing funding for the project.
Paladino said the funding for the building should be fairly simple, with AC Devco issuing $54 million in tax-exempt debt through the Atlantic County Improvement Authority. That debt will be paid off through room charges to students. It will not need to be backed by the county itself, said Paladino.
AC Devco hopes the other $10 million will come in the form of a loan from CRDA.
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The county backed some of the debt for Stockton’s $176 million Atlantic City campus, which opened in September.
Phase 3, on more oceanfront land owned by AC Devco, will probably also include more student housing, and other buildings that will be determined by Stockton’s academic and other needs, said Paladino.
“I’m convinced it will grow,” said Paladino. “We will engage with Stockton and CRDA as partners to say, ‘OK, we control Block 21, the next oceanfront block. What is the best way to use that?’”