Development eyed in Atlantic City

Despite the slowing economy, which prompted several gaming companies to put the brakes on expansion in Atlantic City, a city councilman there says development of the city’s most coveted tract of land is “way behind schedule.”

Councilman Dennis Mason and other city officials have laid out a timetable for the development of Bader Field, the 140-acre former airport valued at approximately USD 1 billion. The council is expected to approve the bid pro- posal this week.

“I wanted to put their feet to the fire on this now,” Mason told the Atlantic City Pressof the new timeline. A history of corruption surrounding Bader Field led to state involvement with the deal. Atlantic City businessman Frank Barbera admitted last year that he paid former City Council President Craig Callaway USD 5,000 to get the inside track on the rights to develop Bader Field. Both men are now serving prison time.

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a state agency, initially wanted to oversee the sale, a right the city claimed as its own. When the city considered selling to Penn National Gaming in January – a no-bid deal that included USD 800 million for the land plus USD 100 million up front for quick property tax relief – CRDA Director Tom Carver called the deal “a scam” and an attempt to “steal Bader Field.”

The city then hired Philadelphia-based firm Jones Lang LaSalle Americas to shape the bid proposal, and Carver was mollified. The CRDA had initially retained Jones Lang LaSalle to help with Bader Field. “City Council has the best firm to assist them,” Carver told the Presslast week. “We’re happy with where this is at and now we’re stepping aside.”

Bidders will have 60 days to submit their proposals. Mason says the city could choose a developer as early as November. No one can explain, however, why the city is choosing to move forward with bids dur- ing the worst economy in the last 20 years.