Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Introduces Tourism District Master Plan
The plan, which has been four months in the works, will go for final approval on February 1st and in the meantime the CRDA is presenting it to residents, business owners, and investors to give their own suggestions for input.
At an additional meeting added for Wednesday night at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the master plan was once again presented to a group of thirty people. Though the audience more sparse than usual, it’s worth noting that Wednesday’s meeting was actually a last minute addition to a previous meeting which was so packed people needed to be turned away.
At the presentation, CRDA executive director’s John Palmieri and Susan Thompson presented a 20 slide presentation filled with artist renderings of the projects that the master plan would entail for AC’s Tourism District.
Highlights include a heavy emphasis on adding safety and vitality to give gamers and non gamblers alike more incentive to explore. Some of the proposed initiatives include putting a focus on the boardwalk to create a more aesthetically pleasing and engaging attraction. That includes shaping the dunes in order to create better visibility for the shoreline as well as the addition of art and corporate kiosks on the boardwalk to give visitors more to do and see.
Nearby locations of Pacific and Atlantic avenue would also get aesthetic renovations to create a more pleasing , less barren, promenade for tourists. Thompson mentioned adding “vitality” to many of these streets, by not only improving the look of them but by also adding more shopping and dining options.
Amongst the possibilities was the of alleviation of the drab look given by the abundance of casino parking garages by adding shopping locations on the first floor’s of the structures.
There was also discussion of translating the success The Walk shopping outlet has had in the Tourism District and parlaying that into more options. The presenters discussed more aesthetic and safety changes which would allow shoppers at the outlets to continue browsing into other parts of the area.
The issue of safety was addressed as something that would be vital to any renovation done throughout the Tourism District. Palmieri says that focus on safety being aided by help from the Governor’s office.
“We’re going to have a renewed emphasis on public safety and the Attorney General and Governor have made a full time Commander assigned to Atlantic City’s Tourism District. “
He adds that the Commander will work alongside the Sherriff and police department to make sure that visitors to the area feel completely safe and secure. Additionally he says that Improvement District will be tripling the amount of “Ambassadors” throughout the area.
“[It will go] From 15 or 17 ambassadors to 50 or more, will be in place come this spring so we’ll have more people on the street with uniforms giving advice having, communications that link them up to the police department. “
He notes that the Ambassadors will be implemented with a greater police presence.
The CRDA receives an annual budget of roughly 35 million which it receives as part of an agreement that designates 1.25% of casino revenue to them for development of Atlantic City’s tourism.
Palmieri feels that even with the economy still not as strong as they would like it to be, they can still make AC an appealing place for investors. He states that part of what makes the CRDA so important is that they provide the ability to seed capital which attracts corporations and businesses to taking the risk. However, he believes that their investments can attract a significant return once companies feel comfortable in Atlantic City.
“That means to get the private sector to come and spend fifty or a hundred million bucks may require that we provide low interest financing for ten or twenty or thirty million dollars. “
The audience was receptive to the plan, praising it for the most part and adding suggestions, many of which were already being considered by the CRDA. The main concern many listed was the current plan does not significantly address the issue of parking or transportation between hubs in the Tourism District. Rich Bergamesco praised the plan, however he wishes some sort of trolley system or light rail system could be established to shuttle visitors more efficiently “similarly to Disney.”
“If you have to get into your car to drive to the Marina District from say the Tropicana. You’re not going to go out there. It’s a lot easier to jump on a light rail or monorail to get to Harrah’s resort.“
Palmieri and Thompson both noted that plans for transportation based attractions were shelved because of cost considerations.
Palmieri believes the trick will be to work with the Cities marketing department, which have a budget of 30 million dollars for 5 years, in order to present the idea of Atlantic City , and attract investors from New York, Philadelphia, and Boston as well domestic ones.
“I’ve got to believe that if we do this right and we can be successful in timing the economic upturn I think we will see some residential development. “
One of the things that makes this master plan so unique is that it’s creation had a focus on feasibility. Palmieri believes that by creating something that is doable and can start immediately they can see results quickly.
“We don’t want to create a pie in the sky program of development because we will fall flat on our face, we need to be very practical and realistic and identify the things that make sense.”
Palmieri adds, that they want to be able to get started on implementing the master plan as soon as possible.
Before the Feb 1st deadline there is still one more meeting for public comment scheduled to take place at on January 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church Cafeteria, 2651 Atlantic Avenue. Everyone is invited to make their voices heard on what they would like to see in the tourism master plan by participating on an online survey at www.revitalizeAC.com . All information is confidential