What can be done with a giant, empty casino building?

Posted: August 14, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY - When Revel made its glittering debut two years ago, it was touted as bringing something unusual to this gambling town: a casino within a luxurious "lifestyle" resort.

Its promise of glitz and prosperity is now dashed.

What becomes now of the 6.3 million-square-foot, glass sheathed, 57-story building, which cost $2.4 billion to construct, and its 20-acre beachfront footprint on the northern end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk?

Designed by Arquitectonica and BLT Architects, construction of the building - the second tallest in the state behind the Goldman Sachs tower in Jersey City - was fraught with setbacks:

Early in the construction process six key executives of the company were killed in a charter-plane crash on their way to a meeting in Minnesota regarding the glass to be used in the structure. A series of construction accidents killed one man and severely injured at least four. During a midpoint in construction, completion was delayed for about a year when one of the partners quit.

What can be done now with the mega-structure that some have termed a glass elephant - its 1,400 hotel rooms, its lobby of 650 steel cables hanging from the ceiling with 19,000 dangling gold circles, its 5,000-seat arena, 7,800 parking spaces, and 7,500 plumbing fixtures? Just how will its 30,000 live trees and plants, 10 swimming pools, and 1.04 million square feet of facade glass - enough to cover 18 football fields - be dealt with?

Can they just board all that up? How many sheets of plywood would that take?

Officials were mum on what's next for the structure. Even usually loquacious Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian - who, two-and-a-half weeks ago, called a news conference to say there were at least a half dozen potential buyers for Revel - issued a terse statement Tuesday.

"This might be Revel's last chapter, but not the last one for this building. My administration remains committed to the workers, businesses, and visitors who are impacted by today's news," he said.

A spokeswoman for Guardian said later Tuesday that at the moment the mayor didn't care to expound on what could happen to the building.

Liza Cartmell, executive director of the Atlantic City Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes Atlantic City using $30 million a year provided by the local casino industry, had even less to say.

"We're not comfortable speculating on what the building(s) might be used for," Melanie Sole, a spokeswoman for Cartmell, said in an e-mail.

Experts contended the Revel will be a hard sell.

"The milk has been spilled on this building. And despite how it has been touted, Revel is really a good example of everything that is actually bad about casinos," said Cape May architect Michael Calafati.

"It's a hermetically sealed . . . big-box structure that sort of sits on the Boardwalk and doesn't necessarily interact with what is around it the way the former grand hotels of Atlantic City once did, like the Dennis Hotel or later the Claridge," Calafati said.

His former Trenton-based firm Historic Building Architects L.L.C. was hired in 2005 by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to create a plan to preserve the Atlantic City Boardwalk's remaining landmarks.

While Robert J. Fahey Jr., Philadelphia-based executive vice president of CBRE, a global commercial real estate firm, said there could be life for the Revel after the lights go out next month he, too, said it will be a hard sell.

"When you consider the aggregate size of the building . . . hundreds and hundreds of hotel rooms and all those hotel rooms coming with all that plumbing and all the issues that go with it," Fahey said. "Some sort of housing might work . . . for senior housing, educational facilities, and dormitories."

But the road ahead will be tough, he said.

"My advice is, they should just pray."


609-652-8382

jurgo@phillynews.com

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