November 21, 2022
Two prominent Philadelphia developers have teamed up on a $3 billion proposal that would bring 10,000 homes, offices and other public amenities to Atlantic City's long-vacant Bader Field, the site of the municipal airport that closed in 2006.
Tower Investments CEO Bart Blatstein joined partners from Post Brothers on Monday to unveil plans for Casa Mar, the proposed residential community with a design inspired by the famed canals of European cities such as Amsterdam and Venice.
"This is a once in a lifetime transformational opportunity for Atlantic City and together Tower and Post will make this happen," Blatstein said. "The development is a key part of the renaissance of Atlantic City and the highlight of my career."
The 143-acre Bader Field is owned by Atlantic City, but controlled by the state under the terms of New Jersey's 2016 takeover law. Due to Atlantic City's financial troubles, the state government holds decision-making authority over major development projects involving publicly-owned land. In 2021, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy extended the takeover for another four years.
In addition to the residential neighborhood, the developers have proposed 400,000 square feet of office and retail space, along with 20 acres of trails, parks and other amenities open to the public.
Renderings show a series of canals that would be constructed along the inland waterway as part of the proposed development.
The developers said the project would be built in five phases over 12 years and create more than 44,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs.
Bader Field has been the subject of other large-scale proposals in recent years, including a $2.7 billion plan put forward by developer DEEM Enterprises in February. That plan, which was endorsed by Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, calls for a race course and a series of auto-themed attractions built around a housing development with about 2,000 units and a retail district.
A spokesperson for DEEM Enterprises told the Associated Press that the developer is aware of the new proposal from Tower Investments and Post Brothers. DEEM Enterprises expects to move forward with its own plan.
"We've been active for over two years, making public presentations, we've been before the city council, we've been to the state," DEEM Enterprises partner Dan Gallagher said. "We have a lot of time and money in the due diligence for this."
Blatstein has been active in Atlantic City over the last decade. Monday's announcement was made at the construction site for his $100 million ISLAND Waterpark. The indoor waterpark, scheduled to open next year, will be an extension of Blatstein's non-casino renovation of the Showboat, which he purchased for a reported $23 million in 2016. The Showboat is now home to the Lucky Snake arcade and sports bar.
Blatstein also formerly redeveloped the the Pier Shops at Caesars on Arkansas Avenue, turning the strip into The Playground entertainment center. He later sold it back to an affiliate of Caesars Entertainment Corp.
Bader Field is considered the inspiration for the first use of the term "airport," which was written by a reporter who had covered the field in 1919.
In October 1910, Bader Field was the site of first attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. Aeronaut Walter Wellman was among a six-person crew that took off in the dirigible "America," which was ditched over North Carolina due to a storm less than three days later. That attempt came 17 years before Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic.
The air field remained in operation for 96 years, primarily serving smaller aircraft, while larger jets traveled through Atlantic City International Airport.
Prior to the state takeover law, Atlantic City previously tried to sell Bader Field at a minimum price set at $1 billion in 2008. There had formerly been momentum to build additional casinos at the site, but the closure of multiple casinos in 2014 dimmed that outlook and the city wanted more of a financial return for the land than had ever been offered.
Over the last decade, Bader Field has served as a concert and entertainment venue for several festivals and large acts, including artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Phish and Metallica.
Blatstein said he looks forward to getting the support of Murphy to help push the Casa Mar proposal through. He called Atlantic City "the greatest opportunity in America today."
"We look forward to an open and transparent process," Blatstein said. "If approved, we pledge to create in Atlantic City the most exceptional waterfront community in the country."