Empty Pinnacle site, symbol of broken...

Empty Pinnacle site, symbol of broken promises, opportunity for crime

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#1 Dec 26, 2009
pressofAtlanticCity.com

Empty Pinnacle site, symbol of broken promises and opportunity for crime

Michael Clark Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, December 25, 2009

Pinnacle's decision to demolish the old Sands Casino Hotel, only to indefinitely delay their own casino development because of the recession, has cost the city jobs, tax revenue and is turning the area around the site into a new crime-ridden city section.

ATLANTIC CITY - More than 20 years ago, the city and the Sands Casino Hotel partnered to create the "Atlantic City Journey," a mural-lined moving walkway that lured customers from the Boardwalk. A bronze plaque is bolted to the Boardwalk nearby to commemorate the "extraordinary cooperation between public and private sectors."

That plaque is now faded and barely noticeable. The Sands is gone, demolished in a planned implosion two years ago to make room for a newer, hipper,$1.5 billion megacasino. The new owner, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., cleared 20 acres of prime real estate on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, but then announced it couldn't finance the new casino. Pinnacle still owns the property and will say only that the proposed development is on "indefinite hold," according to spokeswoman Carmen E. Gonzalez.

The site has become yet another vacant city lot, a prominent symbol of broken promises and the weak economy.

Fences line the gravel lot dotted with weeds and a few scattered slabs of old concrete. Local government has no power to change the situation.

"They put 3,000 people out of work, they took away valuable ratables and we let it happen," said Councilman Dennis Mason, head of the council's Planning and Development Committee, of Pinnacle's decision to demolish the Sands. "We just kicked ourselves in the butt again."

The collapse of Pinnacle's bold plans affect more than just the 20-acre property.

The 74-year-old city post office across the street has been shuttered since the Sands demolition. It is scheduled to be demolished as part of project to widen Martin Luther King Boulevard, plans made in anticipation of Pinnacle's arrival. Businesses around the site on Pacific Avenue, like Fischer's Flowers and a multicultural store called Wada International Store, have either moved or closed.

Other Boardwalk businesses moved out after Pinnacle raised the lease costs on storefronts they now own. They replaced some stores with new tenants, but the facades have been damaged after store signs were torn down and replaced with cost-saving banners.

"If you look at that area, it would be fair to compare it to Berlin after the war," Police Chief John J. Mooney III said. "That whole neighborhood has been decimated by the demolition."

Mooney said the area's remoteness provides more of an opportunity for crime because of the lack of witnesses.

"You have an area where people patronize the businesses on either side of that area, but there's this large gap in the middle," he said. "It opens pedestrians up to more danger."

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