Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Two Philadelphia Developers Propose $3 Billion Mixed-Use Project in Atlantic City, NJ

 By Linda Moss CoStar News

Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein isn't finished putting his mark on Atlantic City, now proposing to build a $3 billion mixed-use complex, featuring canals inspired by Venice and Amsterdam, on the site of a former airport.

Bartstein, the CEO of Tower Investments and owner of the Showboat Resort & Convention Hotel in the New Jersey gambling destination, unveiled his plan for "Casa Mar" at a news conference with his joint-venture partner, fellow Philadelphia developer Post Brothers, on Monday. The waterfront project would be constructed on the former Bader Field airport, the last large parcel of undeveloped land in Atlantic City. But it is vying with another development proposed for that long-vacant historic site, a plan supported by the city's mayor.

Blatstein's project, aiming to create a walkable neighborhood, "is designed to embrace the water, inspired and modeled after the canals of Venice and Amsterdam," according to a statement from Tower. Planned for 140 acres, the project will include 10,000 residential units, 400,000 square feet of office and retail space and 20 acres of trails, parks and amenities, which will all be open to the public.

Atlantic City, a seaside resort, has had more than its share of ups and downs, and many of the areas off its storied Boardwalk, with its flashy casino hotels, have dilapidated buildings and little quality housing stock. Residents are also much poorer than those in other parts of the state. The Casa Mar project would be a boost to the city, according to Blatstein.

Because Atlantic City is devoid of any significant swaths of new housing, Bartstein said in an interview, Casa Mar would help fill that void. To build the development, the site will have to be raised 6 feet to be above the 100-year flood mark, according to the developer. The dredging necessary for the canals will supply fill to raise the site, Blatstein said.

The developer, who said he's been coming to Atlantic City since he was a child and knows it "inside out," already has investments in the municipality. He owns the Showboat, which doesn't have a casino. He's been making improvements to the hospitality property to make it a family-friendly destination, including adding a large gaming arcade and indoor go-kart track.

"This is a once in a lifetime transformational opportunity for Atlantic City and together Tower and Post will make this happen,” Blatstein said in a statement.

He added that he and Matthew and Michael Pestronk, who lead Post Brothers, have created billions of dollars of development over the years and have over a billion dollars in joint-venture residential development in Philadelphia.

Monday's news conference was held at the construction site of Island Waterpark, a $100 million indoor facility scheduled to open next year that Blatstein is building next to the Showboat.

Blatstein's proposal for the former airport has competition: one from DEEM Enterprises. Its $2.7 billion proposal would be a recreational, residential and retail development targeted to car lovers. It would include a 2.44-mile auto course. Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small supports that auto-centric project, and its developer has been before the city council and other officials on its proposal.

In a statement, Small said the city is near reaching an agreement with DEEM.

"I'm a huge supporter of Bart Blatstein," the mayor said. "I'm just excited Bart and others have their eye on Atlantic City. I let him know [a memorandum of understanding] between the city and the other project is imminent."

Blatstein touted his proposal for the former airport as "inclusive." He said he will request that the city issue a formal request for proposals for the site, to ensure that its developer is chosen through an "open and transparent process." Atlantic City owns the former airport property. But in 2016 the state of New Jersey took on oversight of Atlantic City, and now has control over most of city's major decisions.

The Casa Mar project would be developed in five phases over 12 years, and create more than 44,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs, which will include the training and employment of a local workforce.

Tower, based in Philadelphia and founded in 1978, is a privately held development company. Post Brothers, started in 2006, has acquired or developed more than 30 properties, with over 8,000 apartment units and totaling over $4 billion in total project cost.