Close to two dozen retailers have agreed to move to a $60 million factory outlet center the Cordish Co. is building between Atlantic City's casinos and its convention center, the Baltimore developer announced yesterday.
Called The Walk, the center aims to fill a void in non-gambling options at the New Jersey resort. Retail tenants that have signed or agreed to move shops to the site include Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Levi's, Timberland, Fossil and Bath and Body Works, Cordish said.
Cordish agreed to build the shopping and entertainment district in 1998 and is about to begin construction of what could be a three-phase $250 million project.
The first phase is expected to be completed this summer, while the last phases, adding more shops and restaurants, are on the drawing board.
At least two other developers, including Columbia's Rouse Co., had considered developing the 15-acre site but didn't.
"We're pleased with the development plans presented by the Cordish Co.," said James B. Kennedy, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which signed Cordish to develop the site.
"This project is a significant part of Atlantic City's long-term plan to compete as a major resort and gaming destination."
Although the resort draws 37 million people a year who spend more than $4.5 billion, the city has lagged behind Las Vegas in providing alternatives to gambling. Retail stores, such as those at The Walk, will get visitors to stay longer and spend more, company and city officials say.
Cordish estimates that development will attract 1.5 million more visitors a year and contribute approximately $35 million to the state and city. Private funds will pay half the retail center's cost, with the development authority paying the balance.
"Our objective from the beginning stages of development was to enhance Atlantic City and build a stronger resort destination, and with the national retail tenants we've already signed, we are confident we're well on our way to meeting that goal," said David S. Cordish, the developer's chairman.
Allison Parker, a spokeswoman for Cordish, said the recession has not dampened retailers' willingness to come to the Atlantic City project.
She said this project and another company development in Hollywood, Fla., have benefited from proximity to popular gambling operations.