Showboat may soon offer market-rate apartments

One of the Showboat’s three towers could be converted into apartments and made available for occupancy by the start of summer.

The owner of the Showboat Hotel, Philadelphia-based developer Bart Blatstein, said he wants to convert 264 units located in the back tower, which fronts Pacific Avenue, into market-rate rental apartments.

An application for Blatstein’s proposal was heard before the Land Use department of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Oct. 18. The application, which seeks major preliminary and major site plan approval, will be considered during the CRDA Board of Directors meeting Nov. 20. CRDA controls land use and zoning within the city’s Tourism District, which includes the Showboat property located at 801 Boardwalk.

Blatstein purchased the 1,331-room hotel in 2016 after casino operations ceased in 2014. Blatstein said he envisions the property as a “walkable community” complete with co-working spaces, food and beverage, retail and leisure options.

“We do place-making,” he said Tuesday. “We acquire a critical amount of real estate, and we start to build communities. This is another step toward building a community there.”

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said the proposal was a “great concept” for Atlantic City.

Pandit said the idea of a hotel operator diversifying a property into different market segments, such as apartment rentals, could be lucrative. He cited major hotel operators, such as the Four Seasons, who already employ this concept.

“It makes perfect sense for people who are looking for a level of service along with the ability to live comfortably and outside of a hotel room, actually living in an apartment of their own, but have accessibility to services like 24-hour room service or the spa or the pool,” Pandit said.

Blatstein said making rental units available was “always part of our plan” but he did not want to reveal the idea until recently. He said the construction of 600 North Beach, a 250-unit market-rate community being built by Boraie Development LLC, across the street from Showboat and scheduled to open this fall, did not spur him to file the application.

“People bring people,” Blatstein said. “The Boraie development is great. It’s more people walking the streets, walking the neighborhood. That’s what this is about. It’s about rebuilding a neighborhood.”

Blatstein said he believes the market is ready for additional housing options, particularly in that area of the city where two previously-shuttered casino properties — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino — reopened to the public in June under new ownership. The two properties sit on either side of the Showboat.

“Within one block of the Showboat, you have 8,000 employees. There are plenty of people, also, in Atlantic County who would love to be back on the island. There are also people in northern Jersey, parts of New York and, of course, Philadelphia that would love to have a place down there to go to. The problem has been that new product hasn’t been built.”

The Showboat was one of five casinos that closed in Atlantic City between 2014 and 2016. Stockton University purchased the property in 2015 for $18 million but could not reopen it due to deed restrictions. The college sold the building for $23 million in 2016 to Blatstein, who opened it as a noncasino hotel.

Blatstein has a pending casino license in front of state gaming regulators, but a 2014 deed restriction from Caesars Entertainment still prevents gaming operations on the property.

The Philadelphia developer also owns the closed Garden Pier, located on the opposite side of the Boardwalk from Ocean Resort, and the Playground Pier, across from Caesars Atlantic City.

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