Bader Field in Atlantic City closed in 2006 following 96 years of aviation use. The city, which owns the former airport, has for many years since been shopping the property to potential real estate developers.
Numerous companies have expressed interest in the roughly 143-acre property, including Penn Entertainment, which in 2008 proposed building a new from-the-ground-up casino at a cost of $900 million. Atlantic City officials balked at the idea, which kept Bader Field vacant.
The city has repeatedly said it’s not interested in unloading the property unless the buyer will commit to investing at least $1 billion — with $1.5 billion more preferred — into redeveloping the grounds. The state has held the final say on Bader Field’s future since New Jersey took control of Atlantic City’s governance in 2016.
The state now has two competing offers to consider.
In February, an entity called DEEM Enterprises announced a $2.7 billion scheme that would transform Bader Field into a mixed-used complex featuring residential housing and recreational attractions tailored towards the automobile enthusiast.
Called “Renaissance at Bader Field,” the project is billed as a “net-zero carbon LEED Platinum community” with “sustainable design methodologies.” The community is highlighted by a “world-class motor course” embodying the “speed, power, and design innovation of the motorsport universe.”
Another Option Floated
Speaking with the Associated Press this week, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small said the signing of a memorandum of understanding with DEEM Enterprises “is imminent.” But that isn’t stopping Showboat Hotel owner Bart Blatstein from pitching his own Bader Field development.
Blatstein, who is building an indoor waterpark at his Boardwalk non-gaming hotel property that sits between Hard Rock and Ocean Casino, is pitching a $3 billion mixed-use concept for the shuttered Bader airport called “Casa Mar.”
Blatstein’s plan features 10,000 residential units, 400,000 square feet of retail and office space, and 20 acres of public recreational green space. Blatstein is also suggesting an array of canals intersecting the community.
It’s modeled on the canals of Amsterdam. It came from embracing the water and realizing we can create a lot more waterfront property,” Blatstein told the AP.
Blatstein, a major landlord in Philadelphia, has partnered on the project with Post Brothers, a commercial and residential real estate firm also centered on the Philly market.
Bader Field in Atlantic City is credited as the birthplace of the “airport,” as the term was first coined for the general aviation facility in 1919 by a local reporter with the Press of Atlantic City.
Bader Field is also where in 1910 Walter Wellman took off in what was believed to be the first trans-Atlantic Ocean flight attempt. Wellman’s voyage was short-lived, however, as he ejected from his aircraft just hours later off the coast of North Carolina amid a turbulent weather system. Some 17 years later, Charles Lindbergh was the first to successfully cross the Atlantic in his Spirit of St. Louis single-engine, single-seat aircraft. Lindbergh took off from Long Island and arrived in Paris some 33 hours later.
Every US president from Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s to Gerald Ford in the mid-70s utilized Bader Field during their administrations to visit the gambling capital of the East Coast.
Bader Field was slowly phased out by the larger, more inland Atlantic City International Airport after the former US Navy Air Station was decommissioned in June 1958. Commercial air operations were moved to the larger facility in Egg Harbor Township about 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlantic City.
Bader Field remained in operation for private use until its 2006 closing.
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