Friday, March 03, 2006

In the News: Atlantic City Developers Are All In

Coastal development continues at a rapid pace up and down the eastern seaboard. In Atlantic City, NJ, the construction of new homes and condominiums is proceeding at an unprecedented rate, adding valuable dollars to the local economy. However, all of the development is taking place on a barrier beach island that is very susceptible to coastal storms that include hurricanes and nor'easters. As well, the region is also home to several low-income communities. The long-term impacts both environmentally and socially will not be known for some time, but for the moment economic forces are the main driver in Atlantic City's coastal development writes the NY Times. JB

The view outward from Brett Wartenberg's 20th-floor luxury condominium in Atlantic City is a thing of beauty, a sweeping panorama of the Atlantic Ocean, the historic Absecon Lighthouse and the shoreline of nearby Brigantine.

But glance straight down, onto the streets of the Southeast Inlet neighborhood, and the majesty fades. Decrepit row houses patched with plywood are scattered among vacant lots; plastic bags of trash slump against them. Pigeons peck on empty Doritos bags and stray cats prowl the deserted streets.

Dr. Wartenberg, 41, a chiropractor whose full-time home is in Medford, N.J., is unfazed. He paid in the $400,000's more than a year ago for his new condo at the Bella, a redevelopment of an existing apartment building. High-floor units in the project are already listed at substantially more than he paid.

"Atlantic City has the highest potential for appreciation — other shore towns are tapped out," he said. "If you bought in Vegas 10 or 15 years ago, people said, 'Why?' No one asks that question anymore."

Developers are moving in hungrily on Atlantic City, where the sea and beach spread out invitingly. But with nearly half of the city's households defined by the federal government as low-income and F.B.I. statistics showing a crime rate more than three times the national average, a question lingers in some minds: "If we build it, will they buy?"

At the moment, the Bella stands alone, like a debutante in a deserted parking lot. But it shouldn't be for long. New retail, restaurant and entertainment venues, combined with the availability of large tracts of land, are making the city a potent lure for developers.

Atlantic City is the late bloomer of the Jersey Shore, where the value of modest duplexes has risen to millions from Cape May to Belmar and second-home buyers have arrived even in long-forlorn Asbury Park. More than 1,500 luxury housing units in Atlantic City — the first such residential construction in 20 years — are now in the pipeline, though a complex approval process could stall some.


Google Map of Atlantic City,-74.51889&spn=0.469408,0.671539&t=h

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