December 14, 2014
By KEVIN POST
LPMG Companies, a developer known for reviving Philadelphia neighborhoods, plans to do the same in Atlantic City, beginning with a $3 million transformation of the historic Morris Guards Armory building on New York Avenue.
John Longacre, LPMG president, said he’s planning to create 28 to 32 apartments on the upper floors of the 1901 structure, built by wealthy Civil War veteran Col. Daniel Morris for a military and social club.
Longacre and the CEO of his lender, Mark Callazzo of Alpha Funding Solutions, plan a middle-market housing project for the millennials they believe will be central to a new Atlantic City.
“I’ve always felt Atlantic City doesn’t have anything for the middle market, people who are average Joes looking for entertainment and amenity-based services,” Longacre said. “Everything’s either high-end or low-end, and nothing in the middle.”
Callazzo, who also owns the Atlantic City Bottle Co. spirits shop and its Iron Room restaurant in the city’s Chelsea Heights section, said he thinks “five years from now, Atlantic City will be an entirely different place.”
“Kind of what attracted me to the project and John doing it is my bar and kitchen staffers are all in their early 20s to early 30s and most of them live outside the island,” Callazzo said. “They all say there’s not really a cool, safe, affordable place for them to live in town.”
He said he knew Longacre from working on projects together in Philadelphia and suggested the armory project would be great for LPMG. “Architecturally, it’s a great building with a lot of potential.”
Longacre said the ground floor of the 30,000-square-foot building “is screaming for some amenity-based use.” He said he has some great brands in Philadelphia in mind for it, probably including something in food service.
He’d also like to take advantage of the great height of the floors to create some bi-level units.
Longacre, who has a summer home in Sea Isle City, said the apartments will have an urban rather than beach feel, and he “might throw in a couple of micro units because they’re really popular now.”
He said prices will be “extremely competitive.”
Work on the project is expected to begin in the first half of this month with salvaging some of the building’s components.
“We plan to keep as much of the original bones as we can, the architectural details, which are magnificent,” he said. “We’ll have them carefully removed so we can put them back.”
Longacre expects to begin interior demolition and construction in February and to complete the project in about a year.
LPMG has done commercial projects in the Wildwoods, Ocean City and Sea Isle City, he said, but the armory will be its first in Atlantic City.
Callazzo said Lakehurst-based Alpha Funding Solutions has funded a hotel in the city and other projects nearby on the mainland.
Both praised the city administration and Mayor Don Guardian for understanding the city’s situation and its path forward.
“Guardian has his challenges, but he’s steering the ship in the right direction,” said Callazzo, who has a summer residence near Revel. “We both feel that there’s a great future for Atlantic City.”
Longacre said he has identified 15 projects of potential interest in the city, depending on the ability to acquire sites and how the armory project proceeds.
“I’ve been to a number of forums with the Guardian administration, and I’m truly impressed with their insight into existing problems and the solutions they’ve come up with,” Longacre said.
“We’re incredibly bullish on Atlantic City, and quite frankly, I want to spend the next several years there.”
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