McKinnon Erario takes amazing pictures (here and here). A lot of them are of cars, the Pinelands and abandoned buildings. But a couple of weeks ago he started something different, using the hashtag #SaveMomandPop on a picture of Nixon’s General Store. Since then, he’s visited a few more independent food spots. The mission? To get more people in the area to check out family-owned restaurants and diners.
New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, charged with the upkeep of some of Atlantic City’s most important public buildings and spaces, yesterday approved spending up to $2 million on two sets of bathrooms in Boardwalk Hall.
The Pinelands Commission could vote on Friday to approve the controversial gas pipeline through the pine barrens. Proponents of the pipeline, which will be built by a consortium including Atlantic County’s South Jersey Industries, say it will bring cheaper gas to the area, while opponents say its construction goes against the rules that protect the pinelands. The commission’s meeting is set for Friday at 9.30 am in Cherry Hill. Details here via Shore News Today. Bail Reform
We are seven weeks into New Jersey’s bail reform, which did away with cash bail, and experts are divided on whether the program is working.
Stockton University has put out a call for proposals from “national and regional” coffee chains to open a coffee shop right on Atlantic City’s boardwalk in its future residential campus. The store must be ready to serve the 533 students who will take up residence in August 2018. Also, the store will have to contribute a portion of its revenue toward the Stockton site’s tax bill, so if it becomes a thriving business (and it’s hard not to see it being a winner) it is good news all-round for the city. Story from Route 40 here. Online Gaming
If you’re interested in Atlantic City’s casino industry, NJ 101.5 has an interesting writeup on a recent research report that concludes that online gaming is actually helping draw more people into the real casinos in Atlantic City.
Stockton University is seeking a coffee shop to occupy a boardwalk-fronting retail space in its planned $100-million-dollar student-residence building in Atlantic City, according to a document published on Friday. The University’s request-for-qualifications (RFQ) is the most recent step in the realization of a total $200 million project that is set to bring massive change to the southern end of the city within a couple of years. Prospective tenants must be regional or national brands, with at least five years’ business experience, according to the document (here). The coffee shop will be permitted to sell food that requires ‘limited cooking’ – since the University will be looking for a restaurant operator to move into a larger retail space in the same building. The coffee shop is one of three total retail spaces in the residence building, which is set to become home to 533 students in August 2018.
The show-stopper at a development event yesterday in Atlantic City was a plan to bring a walkable, bikeable, eatery-slash-coffee-spot-slash-hipster-hangout to the long-neglected center of town, right off the boardwalk. The guys behind the Tennessee Ave Transformation envision something like New Orleans’s Bourbon Street or Philadelphia’s South Street – a place chock-full of people, with open seating outside of cafes and bars, park-like areas and spots for music and other performances. “We want to infuse the street with a ton of energy and art from the asphalt up. We’re going to make it the home base for high quality markets with great crafts and food,” said Evan Sanchez, originally from Pleasantville, one of the #ThisIsAC gang and a startup advisor. Sanchez is working with Mark Callazzo (The Iron Room, 1 N. Boston) and Zenith Shah (a financial buff who grew up in AC and also recently moved back to the area) on the development, which is set to get under way this spring, Callazzo and Sanchez told delegates at the Urban Land Institute meeting in Atlantic City yesterday.
Finally, there’s a deal. No, it’s not going to help you get a nice meal or an overnight stay. But it will help Atlantic City’s balance sheet. Borgata, the city’s most successful casino by revenue, accepted $72 million in tax-appeal payouts for 2009-2013, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports here. The MGM-owned property also agreed not to appeal taxes paid from 2013-2015 (another potential liability that had been hanging over the city) and it will start paying its Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (click here if you want to remind yourself of that controversy).
The Eighth Wonder of the World, also known as the Trump Taj Mahal, is now just the Taj Mahal, Route 40 reported yesterday. We were on the boardwalk as workers were bringing down the President’s name from that side of the building. Today they are working on the signs next to the property’s parking garage. It’s not clear when the name will come down from the hotel tower, but we were told that the orders are to remove every last vestige of Trump from the property. Billionaire owner Carl Icahn has said he intends to sell the casino.
Rowan v Stockton
Since we wrote about Stockton’s interest in Atlantic City’s Bader Field site (the Press of Atlantic City has more details on that project here) we’ve heard a lot of people questioning everything from Stockton’s debt load to its tuition fees, so we thought we’d look at the raw numbers and also see how Stockton stacks up against its neighbor, Rowan University. Stockton University is still small, compared to Rowan (which has medical schools), and although its tuition is slightly higher, there’s not much in it. You can see the detailed breakdown here, comparing everything from SAT scores to the number of state-funded personnel.
Two of South Jersey’s universities are in expansion mode and we thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast their vital statistics, side by side, using data from the state budget. You can see that enrollment is up at both universities (so are fees) and state-funded positions are also up at Rowan University. It will be interesting to see whether the chatter around Rowan’s plans to expand in Atlantic City comes to anything, since Stockton University is rolling out ever-bigger plans for the city. On the one hand, expansion could bring more jobs and investment to the area, but on the other hand these institutions don’t pay property taxes. Since we wrote about Stockton’s plans to further expand in Atlantic City, we’ve also heard more people questioning the university’s debt load and its tuition costs, so we looked at the numbers. The amount of state support that Rowan receives is much greater – my guess is that this is tied to Rowan’s medical programs, but it’s not clear. And Stockton is slightly more expensive than Rowan, by these measures.
A pharmacy in Egg Harbor Township is giving out brands of the so-called overdose-antidote drug naloxone for free, to help more people get access to the life-saving medication. “This is our way of helping get naloxone to patients. It’s our civil duty at this point,” Andrew Lyle, director of business development at Curexa in EHT, told the Press of Atlantic City here.
Atlantic City’s firefighters’ union – so far the only organization to challenge the state’s takeover of the casino resort town – on Thursday filed a brief in federal court, where a judge has the task of deciding whether to hear the case or send it back to a state court. The state’s move to have the case heard in federal court could draw out the litigation and increase expenses for both sides. The union urged the federal judge not to allow the state to “abuse the court system in order to frustrate plaintiffs’ ability to challenge the defendants’ unlawful actions.” Reporting by Amy Rosenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
There’s a chasm between the top and bottom of New Jersey’s property market, according to Cat Country 107.3 in a story that – on closer inspection – turned out to be a rehash of a piece originally reported by NJ.com last week (for those charting the decline of the media, this is a practice known as ‘churnalism’). It’s worth revisiting the original report, though, because it gets at something that we’ve talked about – and lots of people talk about – often around here. Absecon Island is home to Longport, where property sales recently reached the highest median price for the greater Philadelphia region, and Atlantic City, at most eight miles away, and where property prices have been sluggish at best for a decade. It’s also worth revisiting this map from NJSpotlight, which shows another factor in the property-price mix. Longport has one of the lowest tax rates in the state, but one of the highest average tax bills per household, while Atlantic City has one of the highest tax rates in the state, but a still-low average tax bill per household.
If you’re interested in the craft beer movement and if you’re particularly interested in how breweries in the South Jersey region are faring, you need to read this piece by Matt Skoufalos of NJ Pen. Skoufalos attended a gathering of the Garden State Craft Brewers’ Guild in Oaklyn earlier this week and covered the growing trade organization’s bid to push back against some of the state’s red tape. while growing a community that will “play nice” with other special interest groups and providing a support network to its members. Also, there’s the inside scoop on a new nanobrewery planned for downtown Haddonfield that could help bring some new visitors into the town. Bail Changes
You might have heard a lot of talk about bail reform since it went into effect on Jan.
Icahn & The Taj
Icahn said he will sell the Taj Mahal after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have prevented Icahn and others from sitting on a casino license for a shuttered property. Christie said the bill was a “transparent attempt to punish the owner of the Taj Mahal casino,” and Icahn said “I believe other large investors will similarly have no interest in investing significant amounts in Atlantic City or New Jersey as long as Sweeney is in control of the Senate.” Sweeney retorted that the veto “will allow Icahn to exploit and manipulate bankruptcy laws and casino licensing regulations in ways that would enrich himself at the expense of regular casino workers and the families who depend on them.” So there you have it, via Reuters. The big men got shouty and Atlantic County is still down a casino.