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ATLANTIC CITY, NJ-City officials say that the Showboat Casino-Hotel is ready to move on another new hotel tower, this in the wake of a recently topped-off $90-million, 550-room tower the hotel is building, a project that will make the property this gaming mecca’s fourth largest. Hotel officials dispute that contention, saying that nothing specific is planned.

The questions arise from a measure just passed by the city council that opens up two tracts within the city’s Uptown Urban Renewal area, located adjacent to the Showboat, into line with a new hotel tower and a bus parking area. At the city council meeting, city administrator Ben Fitzgerald said that “the redevelopment plan is being changed to meet the needs of the Showboat. Atlantic City stands to gain revenue from the sale of this land.”

He also indicated, at the session, that the Showboat has proceeded to the conceptual stage for a tower that would mimic the one currently under construction.

Showboat officials deny that there are any immediate plans for construction. According to one official, “we’re just considering the land for possible expansion in the future.”

The two tracts in question have had a checkered decade. Forest City Ratner had the development rights to the city-owned tracts beginning back in 1993, but efforts to do something with the land never materialized. The first proposal by the developer was to build a $40 million shopping complex there, but Showboat successfully blocked those plans through a lawsuit that claimed the project didn’t meet Forest City Ratner’s original agreement with the city.

Subsequently, Forest City Ratner teamed up with MGM Grand Inc. to propose a $700 million casino-hotel property. After almost four years to negotiations between the two partners, and between the partners and the city, MGM walked away from it. Forest City Ratner’s own involvement with the site, which involved a tax-free development deal, ended earlier this year when city officials announced that they would open the process up again.

Showboat officials would not provide further comment on their plans.

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