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In about 18 months, a new 300-seat restaurant and boutique hotel will stand at 151 S. New York Avenue. The Cardinal Restaurant & Hotel is just one of many projects by developer Pat Fasano aimed at transforming Atlantic City into the ideal beachfront destination.
“What we’re doing here is building a destination downtown in Atlantic City,” Fasano told What Now Philadelphia. “We’re going to bring back Atlantic City to what it was always meant to be, a beachside resort.”
The Cardinal Restaurant & Hotel will stand five stories tall, and the ground floor will house a 300-seat bar and restaurant. The Press of Atlantic City reports that a 12-room boutique hotel will separate the ground floor from the rooftop dining space.
The Cardinal Restaurant & Hotel, which will retain its classic Atlantic City architectural look, will be built through a partnership between Fasano and Authentic City Partners. Chef Michael Brennan and his father Thomas Brennan have been tapped to run the restaurant. The Brennans ran Cardinal Bistro in Ventnor, which they closed in 2019 in anticipation of their Atlantic City location. The existing building on-site, which was previously the Hideaway Atlantic City comedy club/speakeasy and Mama Mott’s Restaurant which closed over a decade ago, will be demolished by the end of the year. Construction should start in early 2022 and could take between a year to 18 months to complete at a $5 million price tag.
Evan Sanchez, co-founder of Authentic City Partners, says The Cardinal Restaurant & Hotel will be an integral part of the revival of St. James, Tennessee, and New York Avenues, which is referred to as Atlantic City’s Orange Loop, name after the color the streets are represented by on the Monopoly board.
“But when it’s done, it’ll be unlike anything else in Atlantic City,” Sanchez and Zenith Shah, co-founders of Authentic City Partners, said on their website.
Fasano is looking to create the same kind of magic in Atlantic City as he conjured during his revitalization of Asbury Park. The seaside town was “much worse than AC” when he was the first to start buying properties there in the 90s. Once dilapidated and rundown, Asbury Park is now a hip beach town with popular restaurant and entertainment offerings.
“I was just one guy who bought some buildings on Cookman Avenue. Asbury Park took a long time to get a reaction, but once it got traction, we were off to the races. It’s where we learned how to turn a city around, and we’re taking all the best things from Asbury Park and bringing them to AC,” Fasano said.
Fasano has already turned a strip club into the New Orleans-inspired pub Bourré and owns Loteria, a Mexican restaurant on the boardwalk. Fasano’s plans for the Orange Loop include turning the James’ Salt Water Taffy Candy Factory into a bar/arcade and loft apartments, a shipping container hotel, Airbnb lodging, a marijuana dispensary, concert space, and more. His goal is to join other local businesses and developers to make the Orange Loop an off-boardwalk walkable downtown destination in Atlantic City. He hopes that other developers, especially ones with ideas for family-friendly projects, will take advantage of Atlantic City’s Federal Opportunity Zone as he did to develop the city’s “unloved” land. The Opportunity Zone program offers tax benefits to developers that fund projects in economically distressed areas to spur economic growth and job creation. The program requires that the developer keeps the investment for at least 10 years.
“I mean, where do you get the opportunity to get this much land attached to a boardwalk in New Jersey at these prices?” Fasano told CoStar. “It’s really incredible. So I heard the same here as I heard in Asbury Park: ‘They’re not going to rent apartments there.’… I’m like, this is the Jersey Shore. I’m surrounded by wealth and prosperity. Why is there despair only here? Why? It doesn’t make any sense. So I said I’m going all in.”