Once a Symbol of Future, Barren Sands...

Once a Symbol of Future, Barren Sands Casino Lot Frustrates Officials

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#1 Mar 21, 2010
Once a symbol of future, barren Sands casino lot now just frustrates Atlantic City officials
By DONALD WITTKOWSKI, Staff Writer Sunday, March 21, 2010

ATLANTIC CITY — The barren site overlooking the Boardwalk consists of little more than mounds of dirt and scruffy tufts of grass peeking through the soil. Intruders are kept out by a padlocked chain-link fence bearing a “No Trespassing” sign.
This is where the Sands Casino Hotel once stood – before the Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. imploded the old gaming hall to make room for a $1.5 billion megaresort that it once planned to build but has since abandoned.
Pinnacle announced last month it is selling the vacant property, but city officials are hoping the company will dress it up with new paving, landscaping and sidewalks while it remains on the market.
“I was watching a movie called Black Hawk Down the other night and it was about Somalia,” City Councilman Dennis Mason said of the 2001 film that chronicled U.S. troops fighting in the war-torn African nation.“That’s what this site looks like. It looks a little like a street in Somalia. It looks bad.”
Mason said Pinnacle officials have talked to the city about a $1.3 million facelift for the property, which is in the heart of the Boardwalk casino district between Indiana, Kentucky and Pacific avenues.
Pinnacle would pave the site to create a temporary parking lot serving the downtown business district and Boardwalk attractions. Plans also include decorative lighting, landscaping and new sidewalks to replace those torn out by Pinnacle on Indiana and Kentucky avenues and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The chain-link fence surrounding the property would also be removed, Mason said.
However, the plan has stalled since discussions began about six months ago, Mason noted.
“It would be great if they would do this,” he said of Pinnacle.“But at this point, do you see them operating a parking lot?”
Pinnacle spokeswoman Pauline Yoshihashi explained in an e-mail that talks continue with the city, but nothing has been made final. She did not respond to requests for more details.
Altogether, Pinnacle owns about 20 acres of land concentrated where the Sands once stood between Indiana Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The company also cleared out much of the beach block of Kentucky Avenue by demolishing the old Sands parking garage and smaller noncasino hotels it had bought.
Pinnacle bought the Sands and its surrounding property for $270 million in 2006, but wrote down the land by $160 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to reflect Atlantic City’s plummeting real estate values. The company said last month there has been little interest yet from potential buyers.
In the meantime, there is no activity on the parcel except for the jousting of noisy sea gulls. The only change in recent weeks was the removal of a tattered brown fabric that had covered the chain-link fence and was supposed to hide the property from view along Pacific Avenue.
With the fabric now gone, the site is fully exposed for what it is, a nondescript dirt lot sprinkled with weeds and grass.

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