Posted on Sun, Jan. 29, 2006
Atlantic City: Half dozen luxury condo projects are in the works.
By Suzette Parmley
Inquirer Staff Writer
ATLANTIC CITY - The thought of living near where they worked appealed to the Pipers. So when the couple married last fall, they bought the two-bedroom apartment they had been renting at the Bella in the city's Southeast Inlet section.
"I love the location," said John Piper, 28, a restaurant chef at Harrah's casino hotel here, which is within easy walking distance to where he lives with his wife, Tina Pisano-Piper, 25, a local real estate agent.
The Pipers look like the people that show up in the TV commercials for the casinos - happy, young and looking for fun.
That they have chosen to buy a home in this city of about 40,500 is another sign that the billions of dollars spent on new casinos, housing and shopping over the last five years is having more than a cosmetic effect on Atlantic City.
And not a moment too soon as casino operators anxiously await the effect that the advent of slot-machine gambling at Pennsylvania racetracks this summer will have on their $5 billion industry.
While in Reno, Nev., the gambling business is contracting and former casino hotels are being converted into condominiums, the condo projects planned for Atlantic City tend to be new construction.
There are a half-dozen luxury condo high-rises in development in and around Atlantic City. Four are in the city's Inlet section, including a 34-story luxury high-rise with 303 units called Marbella.
"People have rediscovered Atlantic City and found it's not just a gaming town," said Jim Maggs, who is behind the project. "The attraction is that there is tremendous value in Atlantic City. It has something that Las Vegas does not have, which is a beach."
M&J Development L.L.C., based in Atlantic City, intends to break ground in the spring on a six-story, 179-unit high-rise called Melrose Place, in the nearby Northeast Inlet.
Builder Bruce Toll said he planned to build a luxury residential high-rise with 400 units, priced at $1 million and up, on the 50-yard line of the Boardwalk. Toll, of Horsham, bought the site of the former Trump's World's Fair casino for $25 million in September from Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.
"The Borgata needs to be credited for showing how to access a whole different demographic, younger and more affluent," said Tom Scannapieco of the $1.1 billion Las Vegas-style mega-casino that made its debut in July 2003. "Clearly, the whole city is targeting that market."
Scannapieco was the original developer of the Bella, which was owned by Caesars Atlantic City casino for 15 years as a condominium rental property called the Regency. He bought the building last year to refurbish into luxury condos.
Advertised as "Atlantic City's first ultra-luxe condo," the 27-story Bella is cited by other developers as the project that ignited the current condo market. Its two-bedroom, two-bath units feature stainless steel appliances, Travertine stone floors, and imported Italian cabinetry. Scannapieco said about 55 percent of the 200 units had been sold. They start at $400,000 and can go to more than $1 million for penthouses.
The Southeast Inlet area is bordered by Atlantic and New Jersey Avenues, the ocean, and the Boardwalk. The Bella is a block and a half from the beach and Showboat casino. John and Tina Piper regularly walk to the new House of Blues at Showboat to see concerts.
Scannapieco said developers from New York, North Jersey and Florida were buying up land in the Southeast Inlet. He envisioned "shoulder-to-shoulder high-rises" there within five years.
"It will be the jewel, the Gold Coast of South Jersey," Scannapieco said. "There's a lot of developer activity that no one is aware of - projects that have not broken ground yet."
Maggs, who is based in Brielle, N.J., sees the same thing. He just recently purchased a 41/2-acre parcel in the area to develop into both high-rise and low-rise luxury condominiums.
"With other developers of national stature coming into Atlantic City, like Bruce Toll, it bodes well for Atlantic City's future," he said.