The Walk, the giant outlet mall credited by many with helping to revitalize the downtown area here, will be growing again.
Cordish Co., of Baltimore, which developed The Walk and created similar entertainment-retail districts in Kansas City and at Baltimore's InnerHarbor, yesterday announced a $15 million plan for a third phase of expansion.
The project "is anticipated to create 400 construction jobs and 400 new permanent jobs," Cordish chairman David Cordish said as traffic whizzed by along Christopher Columbus Boulevard between Baltic and Arctic Avenues, the site of the expansion.
Cordish said construction would begin immediately after a $9 million loan from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) was finalized. He is expecting a late-summer opening.
Planned are a dozen new stores covering 45,078 square feet and prominently located just at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway. They will be across the street from the Atlantic CityConvention Center and next to the CRDA's new four story parking garage, on which construction has not yet begun.
Cordish said a fourth phase, Atlantic City Live!, was possible later, including live bands, stage areas, restaurants, and new nightclubs tailored to a younger crowd.
The retail expansion by Cordish comes amid declining gambling revenue for Atlantic City's 11 casinos, and ironically, on the heels of another firm's decision to play a lesser role on the Boardwalk.
Last month, shopping-mall heavyweight Taubman Centers Inc., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., announced it would no longer provide financial support for the Pier Shops at Caesars, an upscale mall featuring Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and other luxury brands. The Pier has reported falling revenue over the last year.
Taubman said it was no longer able to make payments on a $135 million mortgage. The company said it would continue to lease and manage the 282,000square-foot mall if its lender agreed. Those negotiations are continuing.
Cordish said The Walk differed from the Pier Shops by offering designer brand goods in stores such as Izod, Nike, and Coach for as low as half their normal prices in department stores. He said sales at the Walk's 105 stores so far this year were about $300 million, up 5 percent to 10 percent from a year earlier.
"The tenants are doing very well," he said. "You might say, 'How is it possible with the gaming revenue down?'
"The answer is that we've become a regional shopping center for locals. People from an hour away are coming to do their shopping here."
The Pier "missed the mark," he said. "I think it's too upscale for anybody, especially in a down economy."
The $49 million Walk was seen as the catalyst for Atlantic City's retail revolution when it first opened in August 2004, featuring eight blocks of outlet stores.
The Walk linked the Boardwalk to the new Convention Center and gave conventioneers something to do besides gamble. Cordish added five more blocks of stores in a second phase at a cost of $155 million. That expansion was completed in summer 2007.
"Take a look at the new Atlantic City Live!" James B. Kehoe, the CRDA's chairman, said yesterday, referring to colorful renderings showing performers on large TV screens and huge crowds. "This is definitely a shot in the arm, and it's a further enhancement of an asset that's in Atlantic City."