Three former Atlantic City rooming houses sold to become ’boutique hotel’ | Local News

ATLANTIC CITY — The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a deal to sell three former rooming houses to a developer for a total of $150,000, despite some neighbors saying that the houses would be better demolished.

The agreement with Liberty Hudson Holdings LLC is for 105 California Ave., 106 Albion Place and 108 Albion Place. Lance Landgraf, director of planning and development at CRDA, told the board that the plan was to combine the three buildings to operate as a single boutique hotel, with nine rooms in each building.

“They are not asking for any financial assistance from the CRDA except for the reduced price of the buildings,” Landgraf said of the proposal.

In previous meetings, CRDA officials said the former rooming houses were stubborn problems for neighbors and police, allegedly used by some of the tenants for drug dealing, prostitution and human trafficking.

“I think these buildings are in very poor condition,” a resident said at the meeting, which was held by phone. Another speaker doubted that anything could be recovered from the three buildings.

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“If they wanted to do what’s best for the neighborhood, I think they should tear them down and put a new project in place,” resident Sean Reardon said.

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But Landgraf disagreed on the buildings’ potential, and Evan Sanchez, a developer who has worked on other projects with CRDA but is not involved in this proposal, said he knows of the work Liberty Hudson Holdings has done in other areas and is confident in its ability to complete the project.

The properties are less than a block from the beach and boardwalk, Landgraf said, and are in a neighborhood with restaurants and homes. He thinks the work will improve the neighborhood.

Another resident suggested postponing the vote. The CRDA board had already delayed voting on the proposal at the February meeting.

Representatives for Liberty Hudson Holdings were on the phone but did not comment. John Errico, who is a partner in the business with Ryan Goldfarb, said in an interview after the vote that the plan was to reframe existing buildings and connect them, but keep structures intact. Although some residents said they weren’t particularly beautiful buildings, he said they would still be recognizable.

“We want to retain the original character of the buildings,” he said. “Our goal is to do something that blends into the neighborhood. It will not be a modernist and brutalist structure.

The aim is to open the property by summer 2023, although Errico said that could be optimistic. The company has yet to complete the purchase with the CRDA, and will then come back to the board of directors with a proposal. The CRDA acts as the planning council for Atlantic City within the tourist district. Each step will likely take months, he said.

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“So it’s off to the races,” he said.

The construction phase will likely take about a year, he said.

Liberty Hudson Holdings owns three other former rooming houses in Atlantic City and has also completed residential projects, he said. The budget for this proposal is $1.7 million, including the purchase of the building, with over $1 million earmarked for construction.

What remains to be determined is the use of the first floor of each building, which cannot be residential space under current flood and building codes. This space could be used for recreation, storage or possibly an art gallery, he said.

Landgraf said the units could be rented for a week for vacationing families after the project is complete.

The properties were vacant when the CRDA purchased them, part of an effort started in 2020 to resolve issues with the properties. The CRDA originally approved more than $1 million for the two properties on Albion Place, a small L-shaped street connecting Pacific Avenue to South California Avenue. These costs, however, included money for demolition.

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Last September, some board members were reluctant to buy properties at a high price and then resell them for much less than the purchase price. Three council members voted against buying the Albion Place properties at this meeting, but the sale was approved.

At Tuesday’s meeting, a resident asked why the CRDA hadn’t demolished the properties, as discussed when approving the purchase. Landgraf said the cost would be around $400,000 to demolish them, while if a developer used the existing buildings it would save the CRDA that cost.

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