Atlantic City business and government officials are hailing the recent opening of Stockton University’s $178.3 million campus on the gambling mecca’s fabled boardwalk as a positive sign for the long-awaited economic recovery for New Jersey seaside community long down on its luck.
“This is the first non-casino development project in this city in years … and it is the first of many,” said New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, a Democrat representing the 6th legislative district.
Stockton University Atlantic City, which opened for classes this month, includes a roughly 56,000-square-foot Academic Center at 3711 Atlantic Ave.; a 145-unit, nearly 220,000-square-foot student residential complex that faces the beach at 3701 Boardwalk; and a seven-story, 875-space parking garage at 3800 Atlantic Ave. Stockton is also purchasing a former casino in the city, a site for even more expansion by the school.
This report on the continuing resurgence of the Atlantic City market from the CoStar Group research organization is being offered through South Jersey commercial real estate broker Wolf Commercial Real Estate, a South Jersey commercial real estate brokerage firm.
Turning Atlantic City into a university town is part of an effort to revitalize and diversify the city’s troubled economy, said Jon Hanson, a prominent North Jersey real estate developer and chairman of Atlantic City Development Corp., known as AC DevCo, a non-profit redevelopment company.
“Atlantic City had one industry, the casino industry,” said Hanson, the founder and chairman of Hampshire Companies in Morristown, Morris County. “This is the first start in having non-casino areas.”
The new Stockton campus was built through a public/private partnership with AC DevCo, an effort funded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The Authority provided $65 million in tax incentives; the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, which bonded $127 million toward the project; the state’s Higher Education Capital Improvement Fund Act; Stockton University and South Jersey Industries, a natural gas company planning to move to the site.
The goal for the resort city on the ocean is to bring “eds and meds,” university and health-care facilities, as expansions to the local economy, according to State Senate President Steve Sweeney. He spoke, along with Hanson and Greenwald, at a recent dedication ceremony for the new campus.
While the talk is upbeat, Atlantic City is still not out of the woods in terms of its financial woes and its need to create a new non-gambling-centric economy, according to a new report by the state.
That report, commissioned by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, recommends that the city remain under state, not local, control. The state took on oversight of Atlantic City in 2016, when several casinos closed their doors and the city was deep in debt.
“This city was literally two years ago days away from bankruptcy … but we fought for the Atlantic City economic opportunity and recovery,” Greenwald said.
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