Activity is escalating as the Feb. 1 Atlantic City Tourism District Master Plan deadline approaches, including a new Web site seeking practical input and three public meetings, the first of which was held Jan. 3.
Last February, Gov. Chris Christie signed — in the atrium of the soon-to-be-open Revel mega-casino — legislation that retooled the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) and established the Atlantic City Tourism District.
The Tourism District’s primary objective is to “promote tourism and make Atlantic City a safer, more attractive place to visit,” and make quality-of-life improvements to A.C.’s residential, commercial, cultural and entertainment landscape.
It would become the CRDA’s responsibility to oversee all planning and zoning issues within the district, and the authority appointed a nine-person advisory commission (comprised largely of Atlantic City residents along with representatives of the city, county, casino industry and local Chamber of Commerce) to help keep a unified focus on key Tourism District issues. Additionally, it was mandated that all of the CRDA’s assets and revenues — unless otherwise earmarked by a pre-binding contract — shall be utilized for purposes of the Tourism District and Atlantic City community development.
In years past, CRDA funds (which are garnered from a percentage of each casino gross gaming revenue annually) have been diverted to other projects throughout the state.
The legislation signed by Gov. Christie also mandated that a Tourism District Master Plan be finalized by Feb. 1 of 2012 — one year from the date he signed the legislation — and the CRDA retained international real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle to assist it in achieving that goal. Part of the strategy Jones Lang LaSalle is taking in finalizing the plan is seeking the public’s input.
Recently the CRDA, after several months, authorized launch of a Web site called RevitalizeAC.com that Jones Lang LaSalle is administering, and the firm is seeking suggestions from anyone who has a stake in bringing the Tourism District’s goal to fruition.
Stakeholders can include Atlantic City residents, business owners, casino industry representatives or regular visitors to the resort — essentially anyone interested in providing positive, practical and constructive advice on how to make Atlantic City more appealing to visitors.
Some questions are of the yes-no variety like, “Do you think Atlantic City is portrayed fairly in the media?” and others that require a bit more consideration, like, “What do you think are the key factors, priorities, or areas of improvement that should be addressed by the Master Plan?” and “What should be incorporated into the Master Plan that could increase Atlantic City’s strengths and/or correct its weaknesses?”
The new Web site seeks feedback from stakeholders on the approach of the Master Plan to address immediate, mid-term and long-term actions, and to identify key factors, priorities and areas of improvement that should be addressed. All responses and contact information will remain confidential, it is noted, and participants can elect to receive more information and updates via e-mail or by phone.
“For the Master Plan to be successful, the master planning process needs to include the voice of stakeholders with an interest in Atlantic City,” says CRDA executive director John Palmieri.
“We are very excited about the preliminary concepts being assessed and look forward to sharing this material, and we encourage the public to take time to become involved in this process. It takes a wide range of stakeholders to create something that Atlantic City can be proud of.”
In an extended effort to reach all members of the community, a series of three meetings was scheduled during the CRDA’s Dec. 15 board meeting to garner additional public input. The first was held Tuesday evening, Jan. 3, overlapping the First Ward Civic Association meeting at A.C.’s Uptown Complex. The remaining two are Monday, Jan. 9, at 6:30pm at the Venice Park United Methodist Church (2015 Morningside Ave. in A.C.) and Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7pm at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church cafeteria, 2651 Atlantic Ave.
The linchpin issue during the initial meeting was a proposal from a Richard Stockton College of N.J. representative to create classroom and housing facilities for the college’s hospitality-industry students in the south inlet district below the beach block — an area discussed by Tourism District consultants on Dec. 15 as a high priority for redevelopment and revitalization, along with certain sections of the Boardwalk and existing business zones on Atlantic and Pacific avenues.
Suggestions also included sprucing up “dead zones” in specific areas of the Boardwalk, Atlantic and Pacific avenues, opening small shopping kiosks on the Boardwalk to give it a more vibrant feel, and improving the facades and aesthetic appeal of various main-street and side-street locations that have become somewhat run down.
"We think we have the money set aside. We've identified the funding. We believe we have a good site but we may determine that there are other sites that we need to review as well."
“We really [see the skatepark] as an opportunity [to complement] all of the other non-gaming kinds of activities that we want to support,” says Palmieri. “And we own a few parcels and this one we thought would be a potentially very good location.”
Impeccably dressed in a tailored suit and a fashionably wide and colorful tie, Howard Weiss straddles the top two steps leading onto the small stage at The Pool at Harrah’s. The all-weather tropical hangout has been transformed from its daytime persona as a haven for the hotel’s middle-aged hotel guests into its pulse-pounding nightclub configuration.
"It was a little bit of a culture shock coming from Las Vegas, as you can imagine. But then when I actually spent some time [in Atlantic City] and spent some time in competitors' casinos, I was pleasantly surprised and I feel that, you know, being involved in Revel is a very exciting piece of history for Atlantic City and I think will change how people look and perceive the market."
As detailed in the Jan. 5 Atlantic City Weekly, a state-mandated Master Plan that outlines Atlantic City’s proposed Tourism District was given a Feb. 1 deadline by Gov. Chris Christie, one year to the date he signed the legislation designed to make the resort town a safer and more attractive place to visit.
The bills create a CRDA run tourism district encompassing the city's casinos.
Aside from calling, writing, e-mailing, or using a new Web site the CRDA says is in development for users to share ideas, as well as offer new ideas and projects, there are public CRDA meetings (on the third Tuesday of every month; the next one is Nov. 15) that you can attend to vocalize your support for certain projects or offer new ideas.
The perception is that it’s all about gaming [in Atlantic City]. And clearly it’s much more than that so that’s the opportunity, to make sure that doesn’t happen."
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