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Newmark Knight Frank and chairman of
American Racing and Entertainment,
owner of the Tioga Downs and Vernon
Downs Racinos in the state. “Once it hap-
pens, it will be very hard for Atlantic City.”
Some of Atlantic City’s competition also
is located closer to home, resulting from
Gov. Chris Christie’s 2011 decision to priva-
tize gaming, including racetracks, as part of
a fiscal austerity plan. “When the state ran
it, they were losing $10 million to $12 mil-
lion a year,” Gural observes. “The governor
made a decision that the state shouldn’t
Instead, Gural’s New Meadowlands LLC
took over the Meadowlands Racetrack facil-
ity, with a 30-year lease; the state continues to
own the racetrack’s land. Plans call for $100
million in construction, including a smaller
grandstand and the completion of a down-
sized off-track wagering facility in Bayonne.
Meanwhile, other local talk has included the
construction of a casino in Bergen County.
Faced with this growing competition
very close to home, the CRDA was given
control of the redevelopment of the Atlantic
City Tourism District and charged with
coming up with a master plan to revitalize
the district by Feb. 1. Consisting of approximately 1,700 acres, the Tourism District
encompasses some of the city’s most valuable land, including the beach, boardwalk,
casinos and main retail areas such as the
Walk, Marina District and Gardner’s Basin.
Shortly after joining the CRDA in
October, Palmieri retained the New York
City office of Jones Lang LaSalle and San
Diego-based architecture and design firm
the Jerde Partnership to complete the master plan. (Birdsall Services Group and Hill
Wallack LLP also consulted on the plan.)
The team quickly set up a survey website,
RevitalizeAC.com, to obtain stakeholder
approval, including state residents as well as
real estate professionals. Paul Mas, the JLL
managing director in charge of the project,
says he had expected 50 to 75 responses;
the site got more than 1,500.
“I’ve never seen such a commitment,”
Palmieri says. “We had a terrific outreach.”
The plan’s goal is to appeal to visitors
within a four- or five-hour drive, Palmieri
says, a potential audience of 40 million to 50
million people. But all of these people have
access to the other gaming alternatives. The
city is choosing to compete by emphasizing
attributes that do not relate to gambling.
“We basically want it to be a resort with gaming as one of its amenities, instead of gaming
being the main event,” Mas says.
36 REAL ESTATE FORUM FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
Part of the ForumLOCAL Series