Project is Gateway to the future in Atlantic City

What about the sand that will be tracked into the dorms?

It’s a fair question — and perhaps the biggest downside to the Atlantic City Gateway Project that celebrated another milestone last week with the topping-off ceremony for the six-story building that will be the ultramodern, millennial-in-mind workplace of South Jersey Gas, one of the two anchor tenants of the project.

The other is the satellite campus of Stockton University, which will offer classrooms and dorm rooms for college students.

Hence the sand — and the host of other college-age issues that come with dorms.

But to say that’s a negative for the project is to find reason to criticize work whose potential positive impact on the region cannot be overstated.

The $220 million, 675,000-square-foot Gateway project — one that comes with 15,000 square feet of new retail — not only will breathe life into one end of the boardwalk, it will serve as an anchor for the “new” Atlantic City.

At least that’s how the city’s biggest cheerleader, outgoing Mayor Don Guardian, sees it.

“More than a decade ago, Atlantic City lost its monopoly on gaming, but we could never get behind the vision of what Atlantic City should be,” Guardian told the crowd at the ceremony.

“This is clearly the start of the new Atlantic City. Beyond gaming, with corporate offices, continuing education at this end of the boardwalk and the new Hard Rock and the new Boraie housing project at the other end.

“Atlantic City is finally going to be the great city it should be, and a place where you not only want to work, but you want to live.”

The project promises to bring more than 500 full-time jobs, not to mention more than a thousand money-spending college kids looking for places to shop and play.

Adding that to the already billion-dollar gaming industry is key to the city’s future.

County Executive Dennis Levinson said it was easy to get behind the project.

“It was an easy sell to the freeholders, once they understood why we were doing this,” Levinson said. “We invested $127 million of county money and put the full faith and credit of the county behind this project.

“This will be a catalyst for this whole area down here. We already know that real estate prices are going up because of these projects.”

South Jersey Gas President Dave Robbins agreed.

“We wanted to be part of the excitement here,” he said. “And we also brought many things to Atlantic City which they were in need of. We brought jobs, we brought consumers. We broke a strong brand. And we brought economic diversity.

“We know more now than ever that Atlantic City is the place to be.”

Atlantic City, however, is still a work in progress.

The Gateway Project will help build one end of the boardwalk, while the Hard Rock will help grow the other.

And The Beach at South Inlet, Boraie Development’s 250-unit residential project, will bring much-needed housing.

But so much more is needed. The challenges of a depressed urban area still abound. And will be difficult to solve.

A little sand in the dorms, that’s an easy one. And a good problem to have.