In May, MGM Resorts International and Boraie Development LLC announced tentative plans to build 200 luxury condominiums on land MGM owns in Atlantic City’s Marina District.
The 15 acres of waterfront land had previously been used to store dredged material. In one sense, it might be considered prime real estate, but developing it presents some environmental hurdles. Even undeveloped, the property, within hailing distance of Golden Nugget Atlantic City, is valued at just more than $32 million by the city’s tax assessor’s office.
Developed, it would add a whole new dimension to the marina district, attracting new residents, or second-home owners, and adding more market-rate housing to the city’s stock, something it needs badly.
But like many ambitious projects in Atlantic City, the project will need large doses of public help to reach fruition.
Enter a new redevelopment plan for the Marina District. Actually, it’s a reprising of an old plan that 23 years ago helped the city parlay a city dump and 170 acres of undeveloped land into the Atlantic City Expressway Connector, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 2003, the Water Club hotel in 2006 and major improvements at Harrah’s Resort. Last week, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority reauthorized the Huron North Redevelopment Plan, but with a new twist: It included housing.
The latest incarnation of the CRDA plan looks beyond casinos to multi-family housing like a condominium project, but also includes an emphasis on shopping, entertainment, bars, restaurants and other recreational and cultural projects. In other words, the new plan envisions building a neighborhood.
It would be a good fit for the city, which has long sought to diversify its offerings beyond casino complexes. More recently, city planners and Gov. Phil Murphy’s special counsel Jim Johnson have stressed the need to bring development that would help residents and build community, not just expand on a one-horse economy.
It’s critical the city holds firm to that idea as it works under the redevelopment plan with MGM Resorts International, the owner of the 80 acres of undeveloped land left in the Marina District.
A big component of any redevelopment plan is for towns to assist developers by assuming some of the risks or costs they’re taking in exchange for them building a project. In this case, the assistance will likely be in the form of a tax abatement program that will make the project more competitive. So the city won’t recoup some of the traditional benefits of any development — the full taxes paid on what’s built.
That’s understood: Giving breaks to builders to develop projects has become a standard, although unfortunate, fact of getting things done in distressed cities.
The payoff then lies in the intrinsic value of what is built, and the state goal is ambitious. By building a neighborhood, the city would recoup much more than taxes. It would see an influx of residents, the rise of a neighborhood and a strengthening of the city’s communal fabric.
That, at least, is the goal. To do that, the projects selected must serve that purpose.