Trump Plaza Atlantic City Demolition Underway, But Process Slow

Posted on: August 21, 2020, 12:10h. 

Last updated on: August 21, 2020, 10:17h.

The demolition of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City is underway. But the process isn’t going as quickly as some area officials would like.

Trump Plaza Atlantic City casino
Trump Plaza Atlantic City is in the early stages of being brought down. (Image: Tim Hawk/NJ Advance Media)

Demolition of the Boardwalk eyesore began earlier this month. The casino has sat vacant since it closed in September of 2014. Billionaire Carl Icahn has owned the property since acquiring Trump Entertainment Resorts (TER) in bankruptcy in January 2016.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. wants the building brought down by February. Reps for Icahn say June is a likelier time frame.

Not acceptable,” the mayor said in June. “My administration’s goal is to get it down by the end of this year, or by late February.”

Much of the 10.5-acre site is being leveled, including both hotel towers. The exceptions are the large parking lot in the rear of the resort across Pacific Avenue, and the building where the Rainforest Café continues to operate on the Boardwalk.

End of Trump’s Legacy

Trump Plaza opened in 1984, a project codeveloped by future president Donald Trump and Harrah’s. After the two parties had disagreements after the casino underperformed in its opening years, Trump bought out Harrah’s for $70 million in 1986.

Trump Plaza struggled from the get-go, and its poor performance was only exacerbated when Trump opened his second Boardwalk casino, Trump Taj Mahal, in 1990.

Trump tried to save the Plaza by expanding it in 1993 through the purchase and renovation of the adjacent Holiday Inn at a cost of $42 million. The combined resort had more than 900 rooms and nearly 90,000 square feet of casino space.

Despite Trump’s best efforts, the Plaza never thrived. The casino weighed heavily on Trump Entertainment’s balance sheet and resulted in the parent company filing for bankruptcy twice between 1995 and 2009.

TER lost $1.1 billion during Trump’s 13 years running the company. He disassociated from the casino firm that bears his name in 2009 during bankruptcy, but allowed his likeness to continue being used in exchange for an ongoing five percent stake in the casino group.

TER closed Trump Plaza in 2014, and Icahn shuttered the Taj Mahal two years later. Taj is now Hard Rock, and Plaza will soon be a vacant lot.

Political Pandering

Icahn has long planned to demolish Trump Plaza, the billionaire saying the land it sits on is much more valuable vacant than with two out-of-date hotel towers. The process, however, has been continually delayed due to Icahn seeking financial assistance from the state to bring the towers down.

Icahn wanted the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) to provide him with Investment Alternative Tax money to help cover demolition costs, which could hit nearly $15 million. The state agency denied the request.

A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled earlier this year that Icahn must move forward in demolishing the property, which has become a public safety hazard. Pieces of debris from the building have fallen to the Boardwalk in recent months and years, prompting the resort to be fenced-off to keep pedestrians safe.

Icahn says Small’s demands for Trump Plaza to be quickly leveled is a political move. The mayor is seeking to keep his job during the November election, and going against anything Trump is a smart play for a Democrat in the liberal casino town.