by Ray Poirier | All the naysayers in Atlantic City might just as well move out of the way because Curtis Bashaw is moving to the front of the class.
Bashaw, a developer of note and the former executive director of N.J. Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, has announced plans to build a $1.5 billion to $2 billion casino-hotel project on the south end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
The announcement comes at a time when the gaming business has shown consistent deterioration.
But that’s not discouraging Bashaw who considers his plans a "declaration of faith" in the city’s future.
"Atlantic City is going back to its roots as a resort," Bashaw said. "It was a resort town 100 years before it was a gambling destination. I think the next wave is here, and we’re excited to be a part of it."
Before going forward with his casino-hotel project, Bashaw , who has homes in Cape May, N.J. and New York City, is working on a 330-room non-gambling luxury hotel, called the Chelsea, which he plans to open in Atlantic City this July. His previous projects included restoration of Congress Hall and Virginia Hotel, both in Cape May.
"There’s a little bit of personal attachment to this town in that our grandparents came here years and years ago," he was quoted as saying. "Coming up from Cape May in the summer and listening to my grandmother decry the decline of Atlantic City, It’s fun to be part of the rebirth of the town.
His plans for the Chelsea, he said, will buck the trend of the past three decades by emphasizing non-gambling attractions including restaurants featuring celebrity chefs, spas and top-ticket entertainment. The idea, he said, is to draw people to the casinos that have no interest in gambling.
The $105 million Chelsea involves the gutting of two old motels, the Howard Johnson’s and the Holiday Inn, and melding them into one hotel with a ‘50s and ‘60s retro theme. Rooms will run from $275 a night to $1,500 for what Bashaw terms, "the rock star suite."
Bashaw and his business partner, Craig Wood, will have an additional partner in the casino-hotel project. He is Wally Barr, longtime gaming executive and former CEO of the Trump casino properties.