The impending implosion of the former Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino is attracting a lot of attention for Atlantic City these days.
And, for good reason.
The city recently announced a public auction where some lucky winner (or winners) will be a part of history and press the button to implode the building.
The kicker? Proceeds from the highest bid will go to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
“Personally, I’m a pretty ambitious guy. I want to raise at least (one) million (dollars),” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr.
Besides ridding the Boardwalk of what city officials often describe as an eyesore — and later deemed a public safety threat — removing the final remnant of President Donald Trump’s one-time Atlantic City casino empire is also a bit cathartic.
“Due to…Mr. Trump’s history here in Atlantic City, particularly on the back end where it played out on a national stage, where he took advantage of the bankruptcy laws, took advantage of a lot of people (and) made a lot of money in Atlantic City, I think it’s extremely important that we do something worthwhile,” Small said at a press conference to unveil the fundraising event.
The highest bid for blowing up Trump Plaza
UPDATE – January 18, 12 p.m.
Bodnar’s Auction, the company overseeing bidding, announced that the live auction was canceled. According to a Sunday night post on Bodnar’s website, the building’s owner did not approve of the live auction.
“Shortly after announcing the sale, the attorneys for IEP AC Plaza LLC, a subsidiary controlled by Icahn Enterprises, sent a letter stating that IEP AC Plaza LLC was not on board with the situation and would in no way participate or help facilitate, citing safety issues,” Bodnar wrote on its website. “After exhausting every avenue to bring the parties together to make this exciting event happen, we received the final decision from IEP AC Plaza LLC that we must cease and desist.”
Carl Icahn, the billionaire Wall Street investor and the building’s owner, reportedly told the Associated Press that he would donate $175,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way,” an Icahn spokesman said in a statement to the AP.
UPDATE – December 30, 12 p.m.
The highest bid amount more than doubled in just a few days’ time. It currently stands at $175,000. A total of 15 bids have been placed.
As of Monday, 14 bids have been placed, with the highest bid being $62,500.
The implosion had been scheduled for Jan. 29, 2021, a little more than a week after Trump leaves the White House. However, safety and weather concerns pushed the date back, according to Small.
The goal is to have the implosion sometime in February, but no date has been announced.
The history of Trump Plaza, Atlantic City and Icahn
The history of Trump, the Plaza and Atlantic City is lengthy and complex (to put it mildly). This current chapter features another key player: Carl Icahn.
Trump Plaza closed in 2014, along with three other Atlantic City casinos.
The Wall Street investor acquired the Plaza in 2016 as part of a deal involving the thrice-bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts. Icahn sought to have the building demolished in 2017.
After receiving approval from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to use approximately $5.6 million in investment alternative taxes to pay for a portion of the demolition project, Icahn was prepared to foot the nearly $8 million remaining balance to bring the eyesore down. But, public officials — led by Senate President Steve Sweeney, a South Jersey Democrat — pushed back on the plan to provide Icahn any funds for the demo since the billionaire had just closed the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in 2016 after a very bitter public feud with the casino workers’ union.
‘Biggest eyesore in town’
When Small took office in late 2019, he targeted the Plaza as one of his top priorities. Last winter, during the mayor’s State of the City address at the Metropolitan Business & Citizens Association’s annual winter luncheon, Small drew applause from the packed Palladium Ballroom inside Caesars Atlantic City when he declared the city’s intention to bring down the Plaza.
“It’s an embarrassment, it’s a blight on our skyline, and that’s the biggest eyesore in town,” he said, at the time.
In March, the city filed a complaint in state Superior Court seeking to have the Plaza torn down, citing the need to preserve public safety. A judge granted the city’s request, although Icahn’s team had already started the process to demolish the building.
“This has been a long, hard process to get this done,” Small said. “A lot of people have been trying to get it done, but through hard work, determination and effort from this administration, we’re the ones that got this building down.”
The future of the former Trump Plaza beachfront site
The demolition of the 39-story casino hotel tower began in the summer. The parking garage and the Rainforest Cafe will remain.
Atlantic City officials said they hope to have the demolition site cleaned up by June.
The big question now is: What will take the Plaza’s place on the Boardwalk? The beach block land sits at the base of the Atlantic City Expressway and is considered prime real estate.
The last casino hotel to be imploded was the Sands more than a decade ago and the lot is still vacant. City officials are eager to avoid a similar fate with the Plaza.
“Not often does inner-city oceanfront land open up,” the mayor said. “We have one chance to get this right.”