ATLANTIC CITY— A highly touted deal for Stockton University to expand its new Atlantic City campus by purchasing the former Atlantic Club Casino property has fallen through, the two sides said Thursday.

The Boardwalk casino, formerly the Atlantic City Hilton and originally Steve Wynn's Golden Nugget, has been vacant since January 2014, when it became the first of five Atlantic City casinos to close during a period of severe financial distress in the seaside city. Two have since reopened under new owners, and a third has been renovated as a noncasino hotel.

The 1.5 million-square-foot property, listed on the website of current owner TJM Properties, was sought by Stockton for its parking facilities and future expansion into classroom and dorm space, according to earlier statements from Stockton president Harvey Kesselman.

This fall, Stockton opened its Atlantic City campus a few blocks away, with dormitories and an academic building. It is seen as the cornerstone of the economic rebound of the city.

Stockton University president Harvey Kesselman speaks outside the Atlantic City campus.
David Maialetti
Stockton University president Harvey Kesselman speaks outside the Atlantic City campus.

On Thursday, TJM announced that the 23-story property remains for sale "following failed negotiations with Stockton University."

"Stockton University negotiated a very good deal to purchase the property, but the university needed far more time than we were willing to provide to them without any assurances," Terence McCarthy, president of TJM Properties, said in the statement. "Our organization feels that Stockton University will bring great economic development to Atlantic City, therefore offered them a deal unlike any other, which unfortunately did not and will not happen moving forward."

The Atlantic Club is two blocks from the new campus and features a nine-level building containing 550,000 square feet for parking and approximately 50,000 square feet of office space, the company said.

"While working with Stockton University, we had many interested parties and offers that we can now pursue," McCarthy said in the statement.

TJM said it has been in contact with Caesars Entertainment Corp. to remove a deed restriction that was part of the purchase agrement from Caesars that prohibits the property from reopening as a casino. Caesars had a similar deed restriction on the Showboat, which developer Bart Blatstein is operating as a noncasino hotel, now advantageously located between the newly opened Ocean Resort Casino and Hard Rock Atlantic City. Before building its new Albany Avenue campus, Stockton briefly owned the Showboat in an alternate campus plan that was sharply criticized.

Stockton issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying it would "not move forward" with the purchase but remained interested in expanding its Atlantic City footprint.

“Rest assured we remain committed to Atlantic City and expanding our presence there,” Kesselman said in the statement. “This is our future, and we will continue to try to make the best investments we can there.”
In August, the board of trustees authorized the president to move forward with an agreement to purchase the Atlantic Club site, pending a 60-day due-diligence period to evaluate the property and its potential use, the statement noted. The plan called for TJM, which also owns the Claridge, to demolish the Atlantic Club hotel tower. Stockton’s main campus is in Galloway Township, about 12 miles from Atlantic City. Shuttle buses run continuously now between the campuses.