(For a full gallery from the state of the city address, click here.)
ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City Aquarium will reopen on July 1, with renovations both inside and outside. “I’m going to take the blame for the aquarium not opening,” said Small. “And here’s why. If you spent millions and millions and millions of dollars on a project and the inside looks great but the exterior looks the same, it’s a waste of money to me.”
That’s the message Mayor Marty Small, Sr. brought to his annual State of the City Address on Friday, Feb. 2, during the Metropolitan Business and Citizens Association (MBCA) Foundation Winter Luncheon at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
The aquarium, owned by the city and managed by the Public Works Department, closed in March of 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic. But before it shut down, the city secured a grant to make capital improvements to the building. Once construction started, workers found more damage than originally expected.
“That, combined with the pandemic’s impact on supply chains, created delays in the renovation schedule,” the mayor said in a prepared statement.
The building has received new windows, roofing, and flooring. There is new decking and a new ceiling at the lookout. The bathrooms have been renovated and the HVAC system has been replaced. There have been electrical and plumbing repairs as well as new doors installed, and ductwork completed.
“No exterior building siding aesthetic improvements were included, and the city made the determination that when the Atlantic City Aquarium reopens, because it is a first-class attraction, it needs to look good both inside and out,” Small said.
The mayor said the city secured funding from the American Rescue Plan to make the exterior improvements to the building. Gardiner’s Basin Management still handles the exhibits.
According to the mayor, the upgrades coming to the city don't stop with the aquarium. Below are several other projects on which he provided updates.
- The courtyard between City Hall and the Atlantic County building will be renovated and renamed in honor of the late Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Sheila Y. Oliver.
- Pop Lloyd Stadium will get a complete face-lift that will include a clubhouse, locker rooms and the baseball diamond will be transformed into five fields in one that includes space for soccer and flag football.
- Murals, which now decorate the hall on the seventh floor of city hall, will also be planned for the remaining floors.
- There will be dog parks on both sides of the city: one in Altman Park in the Inlet and another on Bartram Ave at the opposite end of the city.
- The Road Diet Program, which is highly disputed by AtlantiCare and other businesses because it reduces vehicular traffic from four lanes to two along Atlantic Avenue, will continue.
- Traffic lights will be synchronized on Atlantic Avenue, in addition to portions of Arctic and Pacific Avenues.
- The City is lobbying to get more than 50% of the funds set aside for Boardwalk Improvements throughout the state.
- The school system will have a police officer assigned to every Kindergarten through 8th grade school and there will be two assigned at the high school.
The city and the board of education, which is led by the city’s first lady Dr. La’Quetta S. Small, have “an agreement in principle,” the mayor said. Those officers will be assigned to the schools through a grant for 30 additional police officers. Other officers paid for by the grant will be detailed to Atlantic and Pacific avenues for patrols.
The mayor also took time to address the recent spate of violence in the resort.
“Atlantic City is clean. Atlantic City is safe. Those bad, horrific two weeks that we had at the beginning of the year is not the norm,” Small said. “And we won’t tolerate it and that’s my commitment to you as mayor of the great city of Atlantic City.”
The mayor also addressed homelessness, the city’s finances and investments, and the budget and other community programs. Small said the city is also attracting private investors who are taking steps to improve Atlantic City. And, said the mayor, there will be another tax decrease for 2024.
“At the end of the year, when the books were balanced and everything was checked, the City of Atlantic City finished $36 million in the black,” Small said of 2023. “Everyone said we need to do better with taxpayers. Check. We need to do better with youth. Check. We need to do better with seniors. Check. We need to do better with homelessness. Check. We need to do better with public safety. Check.”
In terms of entertainment, the City now has a water park and a Dave and Busters which has long been talked about, the mayor said.
“We’re going to market Atlantic City like never before,” Small said.
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