By Cleve Bryan
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) — On the same day news broke the parent company of Caesars Casino in Atlantic City filed for bankruptcy, its ballroom was filled for Mayor Don Guardian’s annual State of the City address.
“They do not see a direct impact in Atlantic City right now, so we’ll have to see what happens. But we’ve got to roll with what’s going on. We got to be prepared for the future and if we’re going to have one less casino, than we got to figure out how to replace that,” said Guardian before detailing his Atlantic City rebound plan to a luncheon of the Metropolitan Business and Citizens Association.
Guardian, who is known for his optimistic attitude, tried to put his city’s woes into context.
“At least we are not Detroit,” Guardian said at one point.
Guardian is overseeing a multi-layered approach to transitioning Atlantic City from a gaming-centered economy to one that’s much more diverse.
He has little choice but make sweeping changes since four out of 12 casinos closed last year and local gaming revenues shrank by 48 percent over the last eight years from $5.2B in 2006 to $2.74B in 2014.
“What I’m trying to grow our city is into the great urban environment it can be for people living and working here,” said Guardian.
Guardian says jobs will come by working with developers on projects for new housing, shopping, entertainment, convention and education opportunities.
Among those projects: Bass Pro Shops is expected to open its mega-outdoor store in April, Harrah’s Conference Center will open this year and the Pier Shops at Caesars will get a makeover by Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein.
Guardian is extremely excited about the prospect of three out of four of the shuttered casinos re-opening in some capacity by summer 2015.
The former Revel is in the process of being acquired by investor Glenn Straub, who says he’d re-open as a hotel and casino.
The former Showboat was purchased by Richard Stockton College, which is converting the property into an Island Campus with dorms, a hotel and restaurants.
Pennsylvania-based real estate company Endeavor Property Group LLC is reportedly purchasing the former Atlantic Club and Guardian expects them to operate a non-casino hotel, as well as convert some floors to condominiums.
“I hope today you see that things have really changed and it’s only going to change because we’re all working together. That’s what it’s going to need for us to move our city forward,” said Guardian.
Other big projects this year include breaking ground on a 250-unit residential project near the Revel, repaving Pacific Avenue and adding a 22-story observation wheel to the Steel Pier.
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