|By Jennifer Bogdan, The Press of Atlantic
City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 01, 2012--ATLANTIC CITY -- Trump Taj Mahal will begin a renovation project as early as next month to revamp the casino's Boardwalk facade and add outdoor seating at its restaurants -- a move to place a greater emphasis on ocean views and Boardwalk entrances.
Atlantic City's beaches and Boardwalk have rarely been a primary focal point for the casinos, which have strived to keep customers inside -- and gambling. But that may change following Revel's April 2 preview opening.
Revel, the first resort casino with expansive views of the shoreline and glass-enclosed rooms that welcome sunlight, may be leading the way. Other casinos may pay more attention to how their buildings look -- not just to those driving by on Pacific Avenue but to those walking by on the Boardwalk as well.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has approved more than $9 million for two projects that would improve casinos' facades facing the Boardwalk. Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort will receive nearly $6.9 million for renovations that architects say will begin this month. Resorts Casino Hotel will receive $2.3 million for renovations but does not have a planned start date, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said.
Both projects will provide for expanded views of the beach and ocean as the casinos move to embrace their surroundings. The improvements are intended to make the entryways more inviting to casino customers.
Trump representatives did not respond to requests to discuss the upcoming project. Mark Petrella, of Atlantic City-based SOSH Architects, which is overseeing renovations, said a meeting on the project took place last week. Work is expected to begin this month and will take six months to complete.
Taj Mahal's 1,000 feet facing the Boardwalk will be transformed from a primarily white facade to one with muted earth tones, new awnings and LED video displays. The casino's Hard Rock Cafe and Royal Albert's Palace restaurants will get outdoor seating.
The three wide staircases that connect the Boardwalk to the casino's second-level outdoor promenade also will be refurbished. Decorative railings will be installed on the promenade, and 10 "gazebo- or pavilion-type structures" will be added. The changes are intended to create opportunities for more interaction with the Boardwalk environment, according to a project description presented to the CRDA.
More changes may be on the way at other casinos. Tropicana Casino and Resort pointed to its seafood restaurant, Fin -- which added outdoor seating two years ago -- as the most visible way the casino embraces the shoreline. Possibilities for other enhancements are being discussed, said Tony Rodio, Tropicana's president and chief executive officer.
"We are working on plans that will enhance the ocean views and Boardwalk. Once they are finalized, we will make an announcement," Rodio said.
Even Revel, which already makes use of the beachfront, will make changes. The megaresort soon will add beachfront "programming," but the details of what that might include have not been released, Revel spokeswoman Maureen Simon said.
Work at Resorts is expected to take six months, but no start date has been announced. Resorts spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said the casino is not ready to discuss its plans.
In November, when the funding was approved, the project was described as one that would return Resorts to its original ornate architecture and arched windows, further playing on the casino's rebranding into a Roaring '20 theme. Resorts, which opened in 1978, was created from the 1920s Chalfonte-Haddon Hall hotel. A hotel expansion in 2004 features art deco-style architecture.
Stripping the original building of its casino-era facade will reveal oceanfront views from the casino's ballroom. A balcony is also planned for outdoor dining.
Petrella, whose firm is also overseeing the Resorts project, said plans for the project have not changed since November.
"Nothing's changed with the design since then, but it hasn't progressed since then either," he said.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan
(c)2012 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.)
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