Donald Trump's CONDO NATION Condo boom in Atlantic City has Trump bidding for parcel Trump Towers are popping up. A prized A.C. site may be next.

Posted: July 29, 2005

ATLANTIC CITY — The patch of dirt that sits along Florida Avenue and the Boardwalk doesn't look like much.

But the 2.5-acre parcel - site of the demolished World's Fair Casino Hotel - is on Donald J. Trump's wish list. A bankruptcy plan calls for the land to be auctioned off, but the developer and reality-TV star has signaled he is willing to fork over millions to keep it.

"It's not 57th and Fifth," said Trump, comparing the location to one of his signature properties in Manhattan, the 68-story Trump Tower. "It's a difficult piece of land, but I'd do something nice with it."

The property's deed restriction prohibits the site from being used as a gambling hall, but that hasn't deterred Trump from wanting to hang on to it.

"I always want to be part of Atlantic City," he said in a recent phone interview from his New York City office. "We'll see what the ultimate price will be."

Although Trump was coy about what he wants to do with the land, several developers are betting The Donald wants to add to his high-rise condominium empire there. The site sits on the bull's-eye of Atlantic City, just south of another property bearing his famous name - Trump Plaza casino.

Trump currently has luxury condominiums springing up in Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, and Tampa, Fla.

Some developers say the World's Fair site - with its beachfront central location - is the largest, fully assembled parcel along the Boardwalk.

"Any beachfront site is a great site, and that one is large enough in size to build a tower," said Tom Scannapieco, a developer overseeing the renovation of the Bella building in the city's Southeast Inlet into a 27-story luxury condominium high-rise. "If you can't build a casino there, what else is it going to be?"

Trump was in Las Vegas earlier this month for the groundbreaking of Trump International Hotel and Tower Las Vegas, a half-billion dollar project to open in mid-2008. The 64-story tower is his first Nevada development. Trump said all 1,282 units - ranging in price from $600,000 to $6 million - were reserved within the first 4 1/2 days on the market. He plans to build an identical tower next to it.

In Florida, Trump will soon break ground along the Hillsborough River for Trump Tower Tampa. The $220 million, 52-story waterfront development would be the tallest residential building on the west coast of Florida when it opens in 2007.

Trump is attempting a similar feat in Chicago. The 92-story Trump International Hotel and Tower will sit on what used to be the Chicago Sun-Times building. When completed, it would be one of the city's tallest buildings. Only the 110-story Sears Tower and a proposed 115-story building called Fordham Spire, which was unveiled Tuesday, would be taller.

Before Trump does anything in Atlantic City, he needs to buy the land his casino company lost control of during its recent bankruptcy case. He had convinced shareholders to sign off on a plan to restructure $1.8 billion in debt by agreeing to sell the Boardwalk parcel and giving them the proceeds, as well as $17.5 million in cash.

The bidding for the land began, unofficially, at a hearing in Bankruptcy Court in Camden on July 8. Developer Michael Stortini, 44, of Rubino Stortini Holdings L.L.C., of Wilmington, who is a major Trump shareholder, bid $13.5 million.

But Trump's attorney, Scott Cargill, immediately topped it with a bid of $14.2 million. That will be the starting bid for the land to be sold at auction Sept. 13 at Trump Plaza.

Trump's broker, Jim Sheehan of Cushman & Wakefield Inc., of Philadelphia, said he would be soliciting other offers above $14.35 million - $150,000 added to the floor bid of $14.2 million - between now and Aug. 29.

With Atlantic City in the midst of a real estate resurgence, some say Trump simply cannot afford to give up the land without a fight.

"I don't think he's buying it because he thinks it's a bargain," said Frank A. Barbera, of F.A. Barbera Inc., an Atlantic City real estate and consulting firm. "He's buying it because he sees the market is here, and he has the potential to do a fantastic building in conjunction with his three casinos."

Barbera said the site was "a great fit" for Trump.

"He picks the best locations because that's what he's about. He knows real estate," he said.

Not far from the Boardwalk site, there are at least four high-rise condominium projects within a mile radius in the Inlet - the northernmost part of Atlantic City where the ocean meets the bay.

Developer Jim Maggs is overseeing one of them, a 320-unit condominium high-rise. He said the market was red hot for high-end residential living.

"People have rediscovered Atlantic City and found it's not just a gaming town," Maggs said. "Now, it's time for developers like myself to come in and build the high-rise condominiums because there's such a high demand."

Scannapieco said prices for two-bedroom units at Bella Condos - located next to the Showboat casino - started at $390,000 and went up to $1 million. He said 110 out of 200 units have been sold, mostly to people from New York and Philadelphia who want a second home or investment. "All the casinos are marketing to a whole new demographic, a younger, more affluent one," he said. "This is the next piece in the city's evolution."

Barbera said Trump, whose gambling company also owns the Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal casino hotels, had a built-in marketing advantage.

"He's probably got 50,000 names, and you only have to sell 300 units," he said.

Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or

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