Last year began with Gov. Phil Murphy praising the state’s “collaborative and cooperative approach to turning Atlantic City around” during his State of the Union address.
As the year went on, the city had good news and support from numerous public and private sources. Never have so many forces been lined up in support of Atlantic City’s government, businesses and residents.
Major projects were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but stayed on track.
The governor, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, Senate President Steve Sweeney and many local officials celebrated the groundbreaking for Phase II of Stockton University’s city campus residential dormitory expansion. The $64 million project is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved plans for a three-story, 70,000-square-foot AtlantiCare Medical Arts Pavilion in the city. The $38 million project, with $15 million coming from the CRDA, aims to improve health metrics in the city.
Last month the CRDA also approved Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein’s $100 million year-round indoor water park to be built next to the former Showboat casino he owns. Then it designated the project as an entertainment retail district, entitling it to an annual rebate of up to $2.5 million in sales tax generated by it for 20 years.
The month before the federal government got behind Atlantic City, with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson in town to open one of HUD’s EnVision Centers to provide residents with job training and placement.
Earlier in the year the federal government granted the city $2.45 million to bring its restored Baltic Avenue drainage canal to its full flood-prevention potential.
November also saw the city Police Department start adopting the procedural justice policy with the help of criminal justice professors and law enforcement veterans at Stockton University. Police officers learn how their behavior during interactions with the public can increase communication, transparency, trust and mutual respect.
Earlier in the year, the Opportunity YOUth Academy — a partnership of Phildelphia’s JEVS Human Services and the Atlantic City Police Athletic League — began helping young people who have been arrested find their way to a job, a career or college.
Murphy also signed a bill from the Legislature giving Atlantic City the ability to let people carry alcoholic beverages outside in the tourist areas, a perk offered in competing resort cities.
And the state helped the city put together $3.6 million for the renovation of Gardner’s Basin, including a $1 million Green Acres grant, $1 million in disaster recovery funds from a state-administered Community Development Block Grant, and $1.6 million from the CRDA.
With all this help and more, the prospects are good that the state and city will make significant headway toward the priorities stated by Oliver — more economic development, improved public health, more home ownership, restoring the appeal of Atlantic and Pacific avenues, enhancing social services and continuing the reorganization and reform of public safety.
Despite the tremendous hit the resort’s hospitality industry has taken and continues to suffer during the pandemic, we’re optimistic that so much support from so many quarters will make this a very constructive year for Atlantic City.