ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Chris Christie said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday the new Gateway Project under construction turns the corner on the state’s commitment to the city.

“We didn’t give up on Atlantic City,” he said. “We are back to celebrating it.”

He praised the public-private partnerships that made the 675,000-square-foot, $220 million project possible. It includes new headquarters for South Jersey Gas, plus a new residential campus for Stockton University that includes an academic building, housing for more than 500 students and a parking garage scheduled to open in fall 2018.

Jon Hanson, chairman of the Atlantic City Development Corp., which is managing the Gateway project, said it took longer than expected to address the problems in Atlantic City. The excavation work on the Stockton campus started almost a year ago, but Hanson said he likes to have a groundbreaking when there is actual construction to see.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Christie praised each other for putting aside partisan politics.

“Atlantic City is too important to New Jersey to fail,” Sweeney said. “It was the golden goose that got sick.”

Christie noted the project will generate 925 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs in Atlantic City.

“And we all know the kind of energy 500 college students bring to any area,” he said.

Gov. Christie talks to press following Stockton announcement

About 500 students are expected to live in the new beachfront student housing, and more than 1,000 students could take classes there.

South Jersey Industries CEO Michael Renna said their new building represents need, opportunity and impact all coming together at the right time.

“We are bursting in Folsom, but can’t expand there,” he said. “It was an opportunity to come in (to the city) when others seemed to want to get out. We are proud to come back.”

Referring to the impact of all the Stockton students and employees, Renna said, “Wait until 200 utility workers move in.”

Both South Jersey Industries and Stockton originally had sites in Atlantic City. Stockton President Harvey Kesselman, a student in the first class in 1971, cited the school’s motto at the time, “Plant yourself where you can grow,” to emphasize both how Stockton has grown, but also how it will again take root in the city.

“We will raise more than steel and bricks and mortar here,” he said at the groundbreaking, held under a tent on the Boardwalk. “We will raise hope and opportunity. Move over seagulls. The Ospreys have landed.”

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