By EMILY PREVITI, Staff Writer Press of Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY – State officials approved nearly $10 million for initiatives aimed at improving the resort during the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority board’s meeting Tuesday – its first since the Tourism District Master Plan was adopted earlier this month.
About $1.2 million will pay for 990 trash and recycling bins along the Boardwalk and throughout the rest of the Tourism District. Scheduled to arrive 200 at a time in bi-weekly shipments starting in April, the new canisters feature locked tops – preventing animals from getting into them. They are also designed to allow in less rainfall, which will greatly reduce wastewater that can result from a downpour, said CRDA Deputy Director Susan Ney Thompson.
Another $1.8 million will cover costs to continue demolishing dilapidated properties throughout the resort. The agency has worked with city officials on that initiative, resulting in either the demolition or owner-financed improvements of dozens of buildings last year, city records show.
Steel Pier also secured final approval for plans and a $6.1 million loan for the $20 million first phase of an overhaul planned for the 1,000-foot-long structure. The three-part project is expected to cost $102 million when it is completed by the end of 2015. And the CRDA board supported launching five feasibility studies, each costing about $50,000 and targeted at a particular component of the Master Plan.
The fastest visible results likely will be seen with Atlantic Avenue façade improvements and innovation pavilions on the Boardwalk, Thompson said.
Within the next year, one demo pavilion will be established and others could be running before 2013, said CRDA executive director John Palmieri.
The agency will spend another $50,000 figuring out exactly how and where to upgrade blighted, inactive areas between the Boardwalk and Pacific Avenue so they look better until more permanent development occurs. Known as Boardwalk flex fields, the spruced-up areas could feature sculpture gardens and other “soft, passive uses” on land that ultimately will be used for sports fields and sporting activities, Palmieri said.
The CRDA will lease targeted properties from current owners, he said.
“If a month later, somebody wants to invest a sizeable amount of money in a project, it’s theirs,” said Board Chairman James Kehoe.
The board will also determine which of the nearly 80 properties that “need attention” along Atlantic Avenue they should prioritize for the façade improvement program, Palmieri said.
It will, among other things, require owners to get rid of overnight security gates to qualify for the government subsidy.
“We’d encourage them to come on a volunteer basis at first, but after that, we’d use every legal tool available to us,” Kehoe said when asked by Tourism District Advisory Board Commissioner William Cheatham whether the agency would engage in any “arm twisting” to get businesses to get on board with the program.
With a long-running façade improvement program of its own, Main Street Atlantic City will work closely with the CRDA to facilitate the initiative, said Pam Fields, executive director of the organization.
“We’ve done it before,” Palmieri said of the program. “But we want to be a bit more focused and strategic, and identify those key properties we should be paying attention to,” Palmieri said. “We understand how important it is … to reintegrate these commercial corridors into the city’s heart and soul.”