Permit Delays Causing Frustration As Atlantic Club Pushes Comeback Date To Beyond 2025

Written By Stephanie Loder on March 19, 2024

The shuttered 23-story Atlantic Club building on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City won’t open in 2025 as expected because renovations won’t be completed on time, Rocco Sebastiani said.

He is one of two developers in Atlantic City with stalled condominium projects which they say are due to city permitting delays involving the Atlantic City Construction Division office.

Sebastiani, the president at Colosseo Group (the company that purchased the former Golden Nugget Hotel Casino property in 2019), told PlayNJ in November 2022 that the South Tower and North Tower would be renovated with a completion date of next year.

“As of January, we were in front of the construction board of appeals regarding our permit,” Sebastiani told PlayNJ on Friday. “The process has not been streamlined. The process is fighting to get a permit.”

Permit issues causing further delays for Atlantic Club comeback

Sebastiani obtained a construction permit from the city in September 2022 to begin recladding the building.

Since March 2023, Sebastiani said he has been waiting for the city to approve one permit which is called a “condominium design permit for architecturals.”

The waiting – and costly legal fees – is frustrating, Sebastiani said.

But he isn’t the only person waiting to get a permit to renovate a building in the city.

Condo complex also running into permit problems

Developer Pat Fasano, a major investor of The Orange Loop near the Atlantic City casinos, said Friday that permit delays have forced him to stop renovation work on an $8 million project La’Renaissance Condos at 190 S. Kentucky Avenue.

“If I had the permits today, I would say it would take four months to finish. But I think it will take four months to get permits,” Fasano said.

Fasano decided to renovate the windows, bathrooms and fixtures to modernize the building, which he said was built in 1986.

“So, I am just going to do a renovation. I’m not moving the kitchen or the electric panels,” he said. “One window comes out, one bathtub comes in, that’s called renovation.”

Fasano said it took two months to complete 200 required permits for each of the 47 condos. City Construction Official Anthony Cox “voided” the permits, he said.

“We turn the permits in and two weeks later, I’ve got red stickers all over the building telling me to stop any work.”

Fasano said the city told him the project was “reconstruction” and not “renovation.”

“He (Cox) is wrong,” Fasano said.

Frustration building for Fasano’s condos

Work stopped on the condo project in December, after the project got a new sprinkler system installed for fire safety and also a new heating unit to keep water warm in the pipes during the winter, Fasano noted.

Fasano said whether the project is finished will be determined by when La’Renaissance Condos gets its permit.

“He (Cox) just seems to misinterpret you on purpose. If he doesn’t like you he’s going to hold you up for months and months. I can’t do anything while the building is shut down,” Fasano said. “These are oceanfront condos with heat, so I am running heat with an empty building. I can’t do it.”

Fasano said the La’Renaissance Condo project is also in front of the Construction Board of Appeals to contest fines incurred after the city issued the December stop work order.

Will the condo project be finished?

“I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball,” Fasano said.

PlayNJ reached out to city officials and learned that the Atlantic Club received approval for electric and plumbing sub codes pending payment. The structural plans submitted earlier this month are “pending review,” according to officials. In addition, the Atlantic Club needs to update its fire technical form for devices to secure approval.

As for the condo complex, city officials said identified only submitted applications regarding HVAC units. Those were “rejected as insufficient considering the scope of the project.”

A tale of two Atlantic City projects

La’Renaissance Condo project is a 47-unit building with a parking garage and 11 stories.

It’s not the first Atlantic City project for Fasano, who many credit with helping spur development in Asbury Park.

In 2020, Fasano was a major investor in a three-block area off of the Atlantic City Boardwalk from New York and Tennessee avenues and St. James Place now called The Orange Loop, which features restaurants, bars, live music, food and drink – and another one of Fasano’s properties, Bourre.

The Atlantic Club is the former site of the original Golden Nugget Casino Hotel (owned by Steve Wynn), Bally’s GrandThe Grand and Atlantic City Hilton.

Sebastiani revealed renderings of what the Atlantic Club’s new ‘condo-tel’ design would look like in February 2023.

The renderings released to PlayNJ by Sebastiani provided the first look into the exterior and interior renovations on the horizon for the former Atlantic Club hotel casino which closed in 2014.

Renderings show the 23-story South Tower with six condos per floor ranging in size from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet.

The North Tower will feature a 330-room “branded” high-end boutique hotel.

“So, the project will be classified as a condo-tel, with condos on one side and a hotel on the other side,” Sebastiani said in 2023. “It’s going to take us two years to open.”

He said Friday a 2025 opening would not happen as planned.

Don’t expect Atlantic Club to become a casino

One thing the Atlantic Club is not going to be is the 10th casino in Atlantic City. It’s one of several former AC casinos with a deed restriction that prevents the property from offering slots and table games.

The exterior of the building will become a showplace of glass windows from Pacific Avenue to the roof.

Sebastiani plans other amenities including:

  •  Movie theater.
  • Golf simulator.
  • Fitness center.
  • Yoga.
  • Wine cellars (if condo owners choose to have one).

Sebastiani plans private elevators to take residents up to the 120 condos in the South Tower. He plans 360-degree panoramic views from every point in the condo.

“You will be able to see Atlantic City and both ends of town, east and west, north and south, with great phenomenal views,” he said.

Yet the project faces pushback. Some believe the Atlantic Club building could become an eyesore for the city’s Chelsea section where residents have been fighting against blight with community enforcement and neighborhood pride.

Liz Terenik, president of the Chelsea Economic Development Commission, addressed blight in Chelsea in the March edition of the community newsletter, The Chelsea Insider. Atlantic Club didn’t go unnoticed in the report.

The newsletter report asked: “How do you feel when you walk or drive Pacific Avenue near California, or around the former Atlantic Club or Masonic Temple? These Chelsea locations are dominated by vacant, neglected properties.”

It also reported that the Chelsea EDC is working with code enforcement officers to tackle code violations and uphold property standards. Chelsea EDC has been “doing our part” to maintain cleanliness and orderliness throughout the neighborhood, according to the newsletter report.

The need for new condos in Atlantic City

Sebastiani remains optimistic about marketing the brand-new condos at Atlantic Club.

“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.

Sebastiani also constructed another building in New Jersey after Sept. 11, 2001. It is located on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township which houses the Federal Air Marshals.

Local realtor Paula Hartman, who is marketing the units, says she has received inquiries from around the world about the availability of condos at the Atlantic Club.

“There is interest. I have a new listing in an old building, but when I take someone to look at it they ask, ‘Is there a new one? What is there new?” Hartman said.

“There is such a demand for it. People are waiting and waiting,” Hartman said.

Hartman, too, expressed frustration that about the delay in obtaining the Atlantic Club permit.

“He (Rocco) is doing something that Atlantic City and the island have never had,” Hartman said.

While renderings of the condos have appeared online and in the media, Hartman can’t take deposits from potential buyers. She said the phone rings each day with someone calling to see when the new condos will be ready.

“We are all waiting to make this happen, but they keep holding him up and holding him up. He’s just one permit away.

“I am so frustrated with Atlantic City,” Hartman said. “He’s going to transform this whole neighborhood and they’re holding it back.”

Photo by Colosseo Group
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Written by
Stephanie Loder

Stephanie Loder is a freelance writer for PlayNJ. She provides coverage of New Jersey's Atlantic City casinos while also focusing on the beach, boardwalk, and special gaming events. Prior to writing for PlayNJ, she covered Atlantic City government, breaking news, and casinos for The Press of Atlantic City in Pleasantville, N.J.

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