Keeping up with Borgata

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Facelifts and new construction, spurred by the coming of Borgata, were everywhere during my trip here this spring, a sign that the city is reinventing itself, much as Las Vegas did a decade ago.

Here is a roundup of projects the likes of which this city hasn't seen since gaming came to town 25 years ago:

• Showboat -- The Mardi Gras Casino, which is the sister property of Harrah's, is planning to debut a new 19-story hotel tower in June.

The additional 545 hotel rooms will complement the property's recently completed $5.3 million high roller lounge and $17 million restaurant complex.

Like the Tropicana, Showboat also is creating a new boardwalk entrance and facade, complete with a Mardi Gras and French Quarter theme.

The area will include large signs, a new courtyard dining area and a bar and lounge with a dance floor as well as a unique design twist -- the entire wall facing the boardwalk will open in warm weather to provide a view of the boardwalk, beach and ocean.

The $33.8 million project will be completed in phases through October.

• Meanwhile, Resorts Atlantic City -- the city's first hotel-casino property -- is in the process of replacing an older hotel tower with a new 485-room building.

• Elsewhere in the city -- actually at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway -- the Baltimore-based Cordish Company and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority are involved in the construction of The Walk -- Atlantic City, a $76 million, 310,000-square-foot retail, dining and entertainment complex.

Slated to open this summer, The Walk will include such retail stores at Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Mikasa, Bath & Body Works, Guess, Levi's, Timberland, Fossil, Pacific Sunwear, Geoffrey Beene, Guess, Van Heusen, G.H. Bass & Co., Carter's, Wilson's Leather, Hush Puppies, Mikasa, Izod, Liz Claiborne, Maidenform, Oshkosh B'Gosh, K.B. Toys and Candies.

• At the city's historic Million Dollar Pier, Park Place Entertainment announced plans to redesign Ocean One, the boardwalk shopping mall, to include elements recreated and inspired by the board game Monopoly.

Gordon Group Holdings, LLC, which created the Forum Shops in Las Vegas, actually will design the venue, which will be renamed Park Place on the Boardwalk.

The $80 project, expected to open in the summer of 2004, will feature restaurants, retail stores and entertainment set amid a Water Works area at the end of the pier with a multi-level water, light and music show as well as areas representing Marvin Gardens and the four Monopoly railroad properties.

A skybridge also is planned to connect the structure's second floor to Caesars Casino Hotel.

• Also new this spring is the Dante Hall Center for the Performing Arts on Mississippi Avenue, an Italian-style building that was built in the 1920s and formerly served as the community center for St. Michael's school and parish.

The building was remodeled at a cost of $3.5 million and is now a performing arts center, complete with a box office and seating for more than 250 people.

Atlantic City's renaissance actually began about a year ago, when Harrah's Atlantic City debuted the first phase of a $200 million expansion project.

The new construction included the 25-story Bayview Tower, which features 452 guest rooms and lights embedded in its windows that create a dazzling display at night; a 28,000-square-foot casino addition; and a new entryway, lobby and registration area with three 3,000-gallon fish tanks.

In addition, Park Place Entertainment late last year opened a $28 million connector bridge between Bally's Atlantic City and the Claridge Casino Hotel.

The Gateway Project, as it was known, also included a second floor with 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 12,000-square-foot ballroom.

With the opening of the bridge, visitors now can visit four Park Place Entertainment casinos -- the Claridge, Bally's, the Wild Wild West and Caesars -- without having to walk outside, which is a big bonus during the cold winter months. -- A.B.

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