Trump Plaza will live to see another day. At least, temporarily.
The Atlantic City casino has been closed since September 2014. Crews have been working to prepare for the demolition of the 39-story building, which was expected this spring.
Yet the vacant property received a stay of execution, courtesy of tourist season along the Boardwalk. And the casino, a symbol of Atlantic City’s darkest hours, will continue standing through the summer.
Trump Plaza’s beginning and end
Trump Plaza was an Atlantic City staple for just over 30 years. Formerly owned by President Donald Trump, the now-34-year-old casino and hotel was his attempt to attract high rollers.
The property was expansive, to say the least, stretching more than 90,000 square feet. But revenues were poor from the get-go, even though Trump continued to pour money into the casino.
It had its days in the spotlight, such as hosting Wrestlemania events and being the setting for a notorious baccarat session that was featured in the movie “Casino.” Yet Trump Plaza, competing against not only other AC casinos but also its sister property at the Trump Taj Mahal, barely stayed afloat.
In 2014, the economy and low tourism hit Atlantic City like a hurricane. For perspective: In a span of three weeks, three casinos closed their doors. Regional competition, namely in Pennsylvania and Maryland, caused a shrinking gaming market. Trump Plaza could not keep up, and it shut down that September.
Why hasn’t the Trump Plaza demolition happened?
Last November, then-Mayor Don Guardian said the plan was to have Trump Plaza imploded by spring 2018. Crews have been removing asbestos from the deteriorating casino ever since. Yet no demolition permit was filed by property owner Icahn Enterprises, or its subsidiary, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.
Certainly, such an endeavor is not cheap. Several reports suggested that demolishing Trump Plaza would cost upward of $13.5 million, though billionaire investor Carl Icahn has reportedly been seeking price quotes.
Eventually, Trump Plaza will become the second AC casino to be reduced to rubble since 2007. (The former Holiday Inn tower and the 2,658-space parking garage at the plaza will remain.) The coming tide of summer tourists put a halt on any immediate demolition plans.
“It’s not going to be done during the summertime since portions of the Boardwalk would have to be closed,” said Dale Finch, the city’s director of licensing and inspection. “Maybe (demolition) will happen in late-fall.”
Razing of the casino needs to happen soon
For all of Trump Plaza’s woes, it rests on a prime piece of property. Demolishing the shuttered casino, it is believed, would open up several acres of premium oceanfront land. That alone could attract millions in investment dollars. And razing Trump Plaza is vital for future development in the city.
“The first thing you need to recognize is that the Plaza has one of the best locations in the city,” said Ken Calemmo, co-chair of the Economic Development Committee of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. “It sits at the base of the expressway and in the center of the Boardwalk. You are guaranteed 29 million plus visitors passing by every year.”
The new Atlantic City has already begun taking shape. Even its first casino, Resorts Casino Hotel, has been reinvigorated eight years after nearly closing itself. It celebrated its 40th-anniversary during Memorial Day weekend. Two new properties, Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, are both expected to open next month.
NJ sports betting is also coming to town several weeks after the US Supreme Court cleared the path for legalization by striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. (Ocean Resort recently announced its partnership with global sportsbook powerhouse William Hill.)
Atlantic City 2.0 is clearly underway, but Trump Plaza is still in the way. Its razing could usher in another phase in AC’s history.