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Is Atlantic City The New Silicon Valley?

Is it the East Coast's Las Vegas, or its Silicon Valley?

3Sep

Atlantic City’s romanticised portrayal in HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ shows a thriving city, but one grounded in corruption. Formerly known as ‘America’s Playground’, the city’s wealth of casinos, boardwalk and beaches have not been enough to stop it from stepping firmly into Las Vegas’s shadow.

The city’s demise has happened over a relatively short period of time. In 2006, for example, casino revenues approached six-billion, and when the casinos are doing well, it reflects in the city’s budget and property prices. Since then, however, it’s been on slippery slope, and seemingly one destined to end in bankruptcy.

A total of twelve casinos went out of business last year, with the Revel - which cost an estimated $2 billion to build - closing its doors after just two years. Increasing competition and a lack of a Plan B has cost Atlantic City dearly in the gambling sector, and with bankruptcy on the horizon, the government’s banking on a change of focus.

That focus - according to Perkins + Will - should be on challenging Silicon Valley to be US’s research capital. The space is there. Emptying casinos provide ample room for research hubs, and even wind tunnels. The city’s location, which is right on the Atlantic coast, would also allow for eco-resorts to be created which could test wind-power and stormwater capture.

In an interview in Fast Company, Daniel Windsor - who works as a Senior Urban Designer Planner at Perkins+Will - had this to say about Atlantic City’s costal location:

“Knowing that superstorm Sandy just barely missed Atlantic City, and knowing sea-level rise projections there, it seemed there was a lot of alignment between the need for capacity building with some of the concerns and issues happening in Atlantic City.”

Hurricane Sandy damaged Atlantic City’s boardwalk, but it didn’t completely destroy it. Most of the casinos reopened their doors a weeks, although confusingly 25% of the city’s residents still believe that the boardwalk has all but disappeared. Rising seas levels - which are expected to rise by an incredible 10 feet over the next 50 years on the Atlantic coast - will mean that storms on par with Hurricane Sandy will unfortunately become more of a regular occurrence.

With Atlantic City likely to be caught in the crossfire, it will increasing become important for them to make sure that research which looks to combat these storms is carried out. There’s no reason why it can’t happen in Atlantic City - and with the its gambling sector quickly declining - making it happen there could offer it fresh hope.

Spanning around four square miles, the city is built like a university campus, and if the local government has its way, the dealers will soon be carted out and replaced by academics and researchers.

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