The new South Jersey Industries headquarters tower at Atlantic and Albany avenues in Atlantic City — Courtesy: South Jersey Industries
By Joshua Burd
South Jersey Industries has opened the doors to its new 72,000-square-foot headquarters in Atlantic City, joining Stockton University’s new campus as part of a high-profile, $210 million project to diversify the city’s economy beyond gaming.
Leaders of both organizations were on hand Wednesday to hail the completion of the project alongside public officials and the Atlantic City Development Corp., the developer behind the new complex. Located at the busy intersection of Atlantic and Albany avenues, the state-of-the-art glass office tower is now home to some 200 employees of the utility, bringing year-round foot traffic to the city’s Chelsea section alongside more than 1,500 students.
South Jersey Industries CEO and President Michael Renna was among those who celebrated the milestone, touting the company’s return to the place of its founding.
“The city needed and desired greater economic diversity, and I think that’s a really important part of the ‘South Jersey Gas coming home’ story,” Renna said. “This was a casino-centric town. We are now bringing back one of the largest employers in southern New Jersey, so it’s really exciting for us and I think it’s a great thing for the city.”
He added that the city “needed partners to lay the foundation for its future” about four years ago, when the city was reeling from the closure of several casinos. At the time, stakeholders were crafting the idea of what is now called the Atlantic City Gateway project, which ultimately provided South Jersey Industries with a much-needed opportunity to expand beyond its Folsom headquarters.
“There is a new sense of excitement in Atlantic City and we’re really glad to be a part of it,” Renna said, praising AC Devco, public officials and the leaders of Stockton.
The opening comes less than three months after Stockton debuted its new beachfront campus, which includes a 533-bed residential building and a 56,000-square-foot academic building. The full project broke ground in spring 2017, thanks in no small part to an array of public subsidies and financial support from state, county and local agencies, along with a loan from South Jersey Industries that helped the developer first buy the project site.
Both AC Devco Chairman Jon F. Hanson and Christopher Paladino, the organization’s president, alluded to that partnership during Wednesday’s event.
“This is certainly one of the most of exciting, impactful, public-private partnerships that we’ve ever engaged in,” said Paladino, who has spent decades overseeing similar projects in New Brunswick. He later added: “Probably the most important legacy was to show that public-private partnerships really do work in Atlantic City.”
Paladino and others noted that the Gateway project has allowed many city residents to launch construction careers, thanks in large part to a training program by Joseph Jingoli & Son Inc., the contractor for the project. Jingoli and AC Devco also relied on many subcontractors from the Atlantic City area during nearly two years of development and construction.
That was undoubtedly a highlight for Gov. Phil Murphy, who was among those on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon at the property. He marveled at the completion of the project, casting it as “an anchor for an entire neighborhood in the city.”
But he also noted the resort town’s other recent successes, including the opening of the Hard Rock and Ocean Resort casinos at what had been two of the city’s shuttered gaming halls.
“The great thing is that it’s not the first ribbon-cutting here in Atlantic City this year,” Murphy said. “And that’s a little point but it’s a really important point — and it’s just the latest in a string of celebrations that all point to one irrefutable fact: Atlantic City is back.”