When Rocco Sebastiani looks at the shuttered Atlantic Club building on Pacific Avenue, the building owner says he sees a new horizon for Atlantic City. Sebastiani, who is president at Colosseo Group (the company that purchased the property in 2019), told PlayNJ renovation plans are in place for the South Tower and the North Tower as well as hotel areas. His permits are still being reviewed by the city, he said.
Sebastiani told PlayNJ he has decided to convert the South Tower into luxury condominiums and re-establish the look of the tower exterior with glass. He said it was too early to project the price of the condos.
As far as plans for the North Tower go, Sebastiani said it will be a “a 330-room boutique hotel.”
But for now, he said the “focus is on the South Tower recladding” (replacing the external facade). The Atlantic Club has been closed since 2014.
“We just went to the market to secure building materials; the supply chain is late and they’re giving us eight months out. Once we know when the glass can get fabricated, we will be in business,” Sebastiani said.
The project should take a year from start to finish, he said.
Atlantic City officials confirmed through an OPRA (Open Public Records Request) that Sebastiani has obtained a construction permit for the project which was issued in September.
Here is a closer look at what Sebastiani shared with PlayNJ regarding future plans for the Atlantic Club site.
Atlantic Club will not reopen as an Atlantic City casino
Sebastiani has no plans of opening a 10th Atlantic City casino. The property comes with a deed restriction that prevents it from offering slots and table games. He said he has just over five years left on the restriction.
However, there is a vacant gaming floor dating back to its days as the Golden Nugget, Atlantic City Hilton, Bally Grand and Atlantic Club.
“We will have food and beverage, restaurants and wedding venue and shopping. We have the beach and cabanas on the beach,” Sebastiani said.
“It literally will change the face of the Atlantic City skyline,” Sebastiani said of the former Atlantic Club building.
“Some groups are already coming through to talk about the North Tower boutique hotel side and they may be interested in purchasing and rebranding it,” he added.
More details about the South Tower condominium plans
Sebastiani saidthe conversion of the south tower will include more than 100 condominiums with 2,000 square feet of living space.
“We just got our permit a month and a half ago by for the recladding of the south tower, which will be a glass tower. All that brick is coming off and it will reset the Atlantic City skyline,” Sebastiani said.
Sebastiani doesn’t have any renderings of what the condos will look like. He said he is looking for investors to go in on the project, like a condo organization
“It depends on who is buying in. Some of these groups might buy in and they might bring their own builders,” he said.
Sebastiani addresses the $3.2 million tax lien, building damage
In June, Atlantic Club paid $3.2 million to catch up with property taxes. Sebastiani said he has filed tax appeals for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, and was hoping to have those decided sooner, but paid the tax bill and will count on getting refunds if successful with the appeals.
He said the condos would be sold separately to individual owners and the hotel portion leased out to a hotel group. Sebastiani blamed the pandemic for holding up progress on developing the building.
“We would have been in the works right now,” he said.
Originally, Sebastiani said the plan was to reopen Atlantic Club as a hotel.
“But the building had a lot of damage and all the mechanical systems didn’t work. Then covid hit and we didn’t know what we were doing after covid. So, we regrouped with a plan to turn the building into something residential in a hospitality structure,” Sebastiani said.
“This has been the plan for a year and a half,” he said. “The architect and the city have been great to work with and I’m excited.”
Sebastiani has owned the Atlantic Club since 2019
Sebastiani, who purchased the building in 2019, said his early plans were to reopen it as a mega-resort. In October 2019, TJM Properties of Florida sold the shuttered casino-hotel to Colosseo Atlantic City Inc.
“We thought we would reopen with a mega-resort with 800 rooms. We had the plan to go in and modernize the furniture and the fixtures,” he said. “But when we got in there the systems didn’t work. It was really, really bad. It hadn’t been open for eight years.”
Before he took ownership, Sebastiani said the building was literally falling apart in 2016.
It was one of four AC casinos that closed in 2014. The Showboat has since reopened as a non-gaming hotel and the former Revel is now Ocean Casino Resort. The former Trump Plaza, located at the center of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, has been demolished. However, there is nothing new regarding what’s next for the site.
Cleaning up the Atlantic Club
As far as the Atlantic Club goes, changes were made and Sebastiani said he received a structural report one year ago to confirm the building had been assessed and complied with the city.
“There were areas that needed to be secured and that’s why the bricks are missing off the side of the building that faces Stockton [University Atlantic Cit campus]. The building was made safe,” he said.
Sebastiani said the cleanup effort is done inside Atlantic Club towers.
“We cleaned out one tower where there were offices. We had 4,000 dumpsters with debris that was just left behind. They left everything behind,” Sebastiani said. “The desks were loaded with papers, the calculators still had tape left in them, and refrigerators were loaded with food. We had eight dumpsters loaded with refrigerators.”
Sebastiani: ‘We’re devoted to this project’
Sebastiani is optimistic about marketing the condos.
“Once we go to market and offer condos, we want people to know we have a lot of history and what we’re doing here is bringing people back to Atlantic City,” Sebastiani said. “We’re devoted to this project and I love the area.”
Sebastiani also constructed anther Atlantic County building after Sept. 11, 2001 on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township which houses the Federal Air Marshals. His firm that built the facility was Regent Realty, of which he still retains ownership. He built hotels and commercial buildings with his father in 1979 and 1982 in Florida.
“Atlantic City has just turned the corner and people are working hard. The only issue is the crime on the street, but the police and city are trying too,” he said.
Atlantic Club key piece to bigger Atlantic City makeover plans
Sebastiani isn’t the only one concerned about crime.
Sen. Vincent Polistina said the stretch of Pacific Avenue where Atlantic Club is located, as well as between Albany Avenue to California Avenue, needs a makeover. Polistina told PlayNJ would like to see old buildings along the stretch of Pacific Avenue torn down, more code enforcement along the stretch of street, and better lighting.
“From Atlantic Club and the southern Portion where Stockton has redeveloped, there has got to be reinvestment and redevelopment. There is some great beachfront redevelopment and some more residential activity that’s going on now. But what is there now isn’t working,” Polistina said.
The casino industry needs to be more involved with helping clean up Pacific Avenue, he said.
“I am hopeful we can get the casino industry to continue to recognize that this has got to be a citywide solution and they that they can’t just focus on what goes on in their own four walls,” he said.
Transforming the Chelsea neighborhood
Elizabeth Terenik, president of the Chelsea Economic Development Corporation (EDC), is working in various ways to address the negative impact of blighted properties in Chelsea. This includes developing a model that can be used throughout the City.
The organization is leveraging one benefit from the neighborhood’s shuttered casino. Sebastiani is donatin
Terenik also wants to see the neighborhood transformed.
“Blighted properties need to be addressed,” she said.
Meeting regularly with Atlantic City officials
Sebastiani said he meets regularly with city officials to make sure his permitting is up to date.
“I go midweek and meet two days a week with the city, for things like a permitting issue. But we just got our permit a month and a half ago from the construction office for the recladding of the south tower glass,” he said.
Sebastiani added he hopes someday the building could reopen with a casino when the deed restriction period is lifted.
“After all, it would take three years to build a new casino. We have the building right here,” he said.