ATLANTIC CITY — Stockton University will conduct a feasibility study on a new $41 million Marine and Environmental Science Center to be built on Bader Field, spurring possible development on one of the city’s most valuable and underutilized assets.
Last week, the city and Stockton received a $100,000 state grant to conduct the study. The Bader Field center would complement the new $156 million Atlantic City campus, according to a preliminary plan developed by the university last year.
Michelle McDonald, chief officer for academic programming at Stockton, said the center’s work “will not only serve to advance our understanding of the natural world, and how to predict, and prepare, for environmental changes, but will also bolster the local economy and offer employment opportunities in emerging fields.”
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The proposal for the center calls for a 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot building on a 15-acre sector of Bader Field that will be used for educational and research facilities related to the university’s marine science program, according to previous reports.
The site would accommodate about 500 students and 100 employees and include docks and ramps for access to the ocean and back bays.
Mayor Frank Gilliam said the city is very interested in the project.
“There isn’t anything we won’t look at for development on Bader Field,” Gilliam said. “Atlantic City is really heading in the right direction, and we want to be a hub of innovation.”
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He added he is working with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to appraise Bader Field so the city knows exactly how much the land is worth before any development happens.
Gilliam said he wants to get the appraisal done as quickly as possible so the city can move forward with any potential development.
In the past two years, the city has rejected six bids to sell Bader Field, with officials arguing they needed at least $155 million for it.
The site, which is about 145 acres, is also being used as collateral for a $73 million state loan that requires the city to hold onto the proceeds of any possible sale.
Gilliam said the city can use the land for various things.
“I do think other spots of Bader Field (separate from the proposed Stockton facility) can be developed into a state-of-the-art sports complex that can help Atlantic City be profitable.”
Stockton, meanwhile, currently has a marine and environmental facility at Nacote Creek in Port Republic that was built in the early 1900s.
The Marine Field Station is used as a teaching and research destination for many academic programs including marine science, biology, environmental studies, geology and the professional science masters. Those programs would move to the Bader Field center if built, according to Stockton.
The new site also would facilitate the development of a Coastal Resiliency Institute and a Coastal Research Incubator.
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The Coastal Resiliency Institute would focus on infrastructure redevelopment and beach management and replenishment.
It could assist municipalities in developing plans that would lower flood insurance premiums for property owners.
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman has said the university isn’t interested in buying all of Bader Field.
However, the Stockton board of trustees recently voted to explore the idea of buying the former Atlantic Club casino, which sits across from the Atlantic City campus and near Bader Field.
Linda Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Atlantic County, said the county is not monetarily involved with the project at this time. However, the Atlantic County Economic Alliance is identified as a “strategic partner” to assist with the study with in-kind services.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is also named as a strategic partner in the study.