ATLANTIC CITY — The city has taken control of Gardner’s Basin after terminating an agreement with a developer who had promised to bring new amenities and much-anticipated upgrades to the bayfront area.
The city ended its redevelopment and lease agreement with Scarborough Properties, a Somers Point-based company, on Nov. 7.
City Council President Marty Small said termination of the agreement was a mutual decision.
“We thank Mr. Scarborough for his contributions, and we hope that he will continue to play a part in Atlantic City’s future,” Small said.
Mayor Frank Gilliam’s chief of staff Maisha Moore said the city is continuing to work out the transition and would not comment on the reasons behind the termination.
Scarborough Properties could not be reached for comment.
Last year, the company submitted plans that included enhancements to existing Gardner’s Basin features such as the Atlantic City Aquarium and factored in a new pier restaurant to replace the now-demolished Scales.
Plans also included adding a children’s garden, a minigolf course, a water taxi and development with retail, restaurants and parking along Caspian Point — if the point could be acquired from Kushner Cos., the family business of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The resolution to terminate, which passed unanimously last month, stated that Scarborough Properties breached the agreements. It also stated that the company “failed to cure such defaults within the time period provided.”
Small attributed the failure to the land-use regulations that have existed in Gardner’s Basin since its founding.
“He had a vision, but restrictions limited his ability to see that vision through,” Small said.
The city received funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund when the Gardner’s Basin park was established in the 1970s. That funding came with requirements for businesses there to support conservation, recreation and open space.
These same restrictions are what led the basin’s crafters to vacate the area last year.
Council members were unclear on how they would address the issue.
Councilman George Tibbitt said he did not know the exact reasons for the termination but said he opposed the agreements with Scarborough Properties when it was first proposed because he did not feel the company was qualified.
While the land has always been owned by the city, Gardner’s Basin had previously been managed and leased by the Atlantic City Historical Waterfront Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 1976.
In a letter sent to the foundation in November 2017, former state administrator Jeffrey Chiesa terminated the contract with the city and said Scarborough Properties would take its place.
After turning over management of the area, the waterfront foundation also settled a lawsuit in Superior Court brought against it in March by SP Gardner’s Basin LLC for a total of $176,210. Scarborough Properties co-owner Sean Scarborough is listed as a managing member of SP Gardner’s Basin.
Chiesa stated in the letter that, upon breaking with the foundation and moving forward with Scarborough, the city would be able to cease all support for the park, saving it about $250,000 a year.
Small said he sees the takeover as an opportunity for the city.
“It’s a revenue maker. We’re in the business of creating as much revenue streams as possible to keep the residents’ and businesses’ taxes low,” he said.
Council passed two resolutions Wednesday that would allow them to operate the aquarium. One allocated $100,000 in emergency funding to the aquarium, and the other approved a six-month contract with Shore Aquarium Services Inc. for $6,500 per month to manage the feeding of animals in the aquarium.
The city has not released any further plans for the area.
“We’re going to look at it as a city,” Small said. “It needs some tender love and care. We’re going to look at various options. This is the best option right now to bring it under the city.”