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Bader Field reborn

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You’d have a point if you called Erick Feitshans CEO of DEEM Enterprises a Renaissance man. Cole Rush speaks with him about DEEM’s massive redevelopment in Atlantic City, New Jersey: Renaissance at Bader Field.

Feitshans, DEEM’s president and CEO says the “revolution” in Atlantic City is being brought about by Renaissance at Bader Field.

The phrase is meant both literally – Renaissance Bader Field, a real estate and retail development – as well as in a more abstract sense.

This development includes condominiums and a track meeting F1 standards, as well as various other amenities.

Re-making history

Bader Field was once the Atlantic City Municipal Airport.

Feitshans: “Bader Field has a rich history.” We’ve heard tales about Charles Lindbergh landing on his tour of the world or the Wright Brothers landing at Bader Field.

The ups and the downs of Atlantic City led to the region becoming quiet. Bader Field was eventually shut down in order to build a new international airport at the beginning of 2000s. In 2008, the city rejected a plan to turn the property into a casino. Since then, Bader Field is dormant.

Feitshans says, “This property is the largest undeveloped piece of real estate anywhere in the mid Atlantic, and perhaps the Northeastern Quadrant of the United States. It is densely populated.” What a great opportunity to create something new.

Atlantic City: A New Legacy

Feitshans, DEEM and Atlantic City hope uniqueness is the spark to ignite a new growth wave for Atlantic City. Bader Field, a comprehensive and wide-ranging development project that spans both figuratively and literally a large area of land.

Feitshans describes the project as “a housing development, with a motor-course for car enthusiasts, retail properties, hotel towers, condos, and a small museum”.

Erick Feitshans is the CEO of DEEM Enterprises

DEEM also plans to seek a LEED Platinum Certification for the project. Feitshans believes that a green perspective is essential to this project.

Feitshans hopes Renaissance can be “a catalyst for change” in Atlantic City.

He says, “We do not necessarily intend to say this project, by itself, will make the difference.” It could spark a new approach to Atlantic City.

The casino industry is a major part of the economy, and that’s great. But the city needs to diversify its business.

Capitalising on an opportunity

Atlantic City is surrounded historically by wealthy areas. Feitshans claims that the city didn’t capitalize on this. New Jersey’s hub city is seen by many as a tourist destination and not one that locals can enjoy.

Feitshans: “We hope to turn that ship around.”

We also want to reduce the property tax rates for residents of Atlantic City, as they are amongst the highest in New Jersey. The project is important because it embraces the people and the city.

Feithsans say that the city has been a fantastic place to work.

Mayor [Marty] Small was a staunch supporter. We had to work hard to make everyone understand what we were trying to achieve, particularly with regards to the motor course.

Since we began that process, four years ago the city has accepted and understood it. “They see benefits, and potential ways to uplift this area.”

Revving up

You’ll be inundated with sensationalized headlines about the Bader Field motor course if you look at them.

It’s understandable, given that Feitshans is excited by the prospect. They’re careful to explain the purpose of this track.

Feitshans: “We have always said that the motor course we are building will be up to F1 standard.” I think that people were misunderstood to believe that we would be building an F1 race track which would run 24/7 adjacent to a residential neighborhood. It’s just not true.

DEEM’s planned motor course was not easy to visualize, as it took a lot of work on the education side.

It will serve as an attraction for those involved in motorsports subculture, which is unique and vibrant.

He says that “car culture is a way to bring people together.” Collectors and drivers view automobiles as art. We offer car lovers the chance to not only live but also park their vehicle in our new development, much like a collector would do with a Picasso.

Feitshans is hoping that the Renaissance track will attract global attention from the automotive community.

He recommends Drive to Survive to anyone who is interested in motorsports.

Bet on the Future

The Renaissance at Bader Field property will not be focused on gambling. It will have some gambling ties, but it is not the only one. Atlantic City is after all a gambling city.

There will always be people who want to play the slots and dice on the East Coast. Feitshans DEEM is ready to take on that challenge.

He says, “We intend to buy a skin in order to offer some sort of online gambling.” We’re working out the details but see many opportunities for online betting and gambling. There’s plenty we can do with simulated races or digital platforms.

It makes sense that he is mum about the details. When the project is still in its early stages, it’s too soon to start talking about a skin. This part is the most important.

Breaking ground

First, the first task in building Renaissance on Bader Field involves a lot of heavy lifting to address some land issues.

Feitshans says, “There is a 100-foot plume below the surface that we need to clean up.” The land was formerly used as an airport.

The other problem is that it’s completely flat, and just four feet above the level of tide. We have to elevate the area because it is susceptible to storms. We are required to raise the fence by an average of seven or eight footers as part of our approval process. In some areas, 40 feet is required. We have to bring in three million cubic yard of material, and then sculpt that into a brand new surface.”

Once this step has been completed, the building process can begin.

Feitshans says, “We call it horizontal construction.”

Renaissance is only a few steps away once the horizontal section has been completed.

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