An Atlantic City beach block between St James Place and Tennessee Avenue should see a third development begin this summer from long-time city businessmen Abraham and Robert Schiff. The brothers are planning to open an on-land extension to their Schiff’s Central Pier, taking inspiration from other redevelopment on the Boardwalk, according to their lawyer.
The new plan is to convert a Boardwalk-fronting site that previously housed aging trailers into something like the Boardwalk Biergarten, which has been buzzing since it opened in March. The Schiffs, criticized in the past for owning various Boardwalk eyesores, recently visited the landscaped Biergarten and were impressed by the crowds it draws, their lawyer said.
The incumbent Mr Steak’s trailer and tired-looking ice cream and pizza vendors have already been moved off of the site, to make way for a concrete platform that will form the base of a restaurant and bar area that will be next door – but separated from – an area with family games and rides. “Both the city and the applicants have all called this, unfortunately, the dead area,” the Schiffs’ lawyer, George Miller, told a planning hearing at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority earlier this spring. “There’s nothing here. There’s nothing been here for a long time.”
The Schiffs are hoping to capitalize on the redevelopment of the former “dead area.” A development team called Authentic City partners opened a yoga studio on Tennessee Ave at the end of last year, a small-batch chocolate-factory-plus-cocktail-bar earlier this year, and will open a coffee shop and a beer hall in coming months. Last week, The Press of Atlantic City’s Erin Serpico detailed plans by Asbury Park developer Patrick Fasano that would fill in the derelict center of the neighboring block between St James Place and New York Ave. Fasano wants to build hotel rooms, apartments, a restaurant and an outdoor entertainment venue. And Philadelphia-based developer John Longacre is fitting out a music venue dubbed The Anchor Rock Club, also on New York Ave, for a July opening.
The area is also likely to benefit from the reopening of two nearby casinos at the end of this month. “We’re hoping to see a lot more traffic between Bally’s, Caesars and Resorts, Hard Rock, and the old Revel,” Miller told CRDA. “So, we’re hoping this becomes a very active pedestrian area.”
Miller said the Schiff brothers have been watching the success of the owners of the Bungalow Beach Bar and the newly-opened Boardwalk Biergarten in getting offshore residents to come to the Boardwalk. The Schiffs own a parking lot adjacent to the new project, between the Casino Control Commission and The Irish Pub, and they hope to attract visitors who want to drive into Atlantic City and go to a restaurant or bar with easy parking. “They want to dramatically upgrade from what was there,” Miller told CRDA officials. The engineer for the new project said it would “to some degree mimic” the Biergarten, which has been a hit since opening in March. A later-phase plan for the site would include the construction of a one-story building, officials told CRDA.
CRDA Planning Director Lance Landgraf suggested the Schiffs should take a look at a nearby project in Brigantine – smoothie-and-coffee spot SoulBerri – for ideas on how the space could be built out, possibly using converted shipping containers instead of trailers for more attractive food-and-drink vendor locations.
The Schiffs have not been known for upscale development in the city. A Peanut World billboard they owned became a rusting eyesore that CRDA eventually requested be taken down some years ago. In the 70s, the brothers battled with Bally’s over a “200-foot strip of Boardwalk honky-tonk” they owned (they later sold the strip of retail spots – to be torn down by Bally’s – for $38.5 million.)
The new project will likely go before the CRDA board on June 19th (the CRDA agenda is not yet public). Miller did not respond to a request for comment.