Friday, September 4, 2015

RIP Tower of Geniuses, Atlantic City, NJ

A rather wonderful long article by Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker about questionable economic development attempts in Atlantic City, focusing on a large casino/hotel project called the Revel. Among the plans when the Revel went bankrupt, a purported institute for scientists: 
A mysterious character in tattered clothing and a handlebar mustache had been showing up a few times a year, engaging the staff in conversation about space travel and Elon Musk. He claimed to represent someone who was going to buy Revel. Hauke and his team were skeptical, but one day last summer, just before the casino closed, the man rolled up in a baby-blue Bentley convertible. Maybe he was for real. 
“My guy’s going to offer ninety million,” he said. His guy, he went on, was from Florida and intended to erect a “Tower of Geniuses” on the Revel site, a high-rise think tank, which would draw on NASA and the federal government’s aviation-research facility at Atlantic City Airport, just offshore. 
If not for zany schemes, Atlantic City would still be a sand dune. Within weeks, news broke that a little-known Florida developer named Glenn Straub, the owner of Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club, had offered ninety million dollars to buy Revel. Straub wanted to put up the aborted second tower and fill it with academics and scientists charged with solving the world’s problems: your Tower of Geniuses. Few in town took this seriously, but, as far as the bankruptcy was concerned, he’d established a baseline. Everything has a clearing price. The bad news was that Straub’s offer was less than four cents on the dollar—a chilling signal of how far Atlantic City had fallen and may yet fall. The good news was that the building—and you might even say the town—was worth anything at all.
A durn shame the Tower of Geniuses never came to be; looks like it was never to be and that the site is still mired in litigation. Say, I'll bet we could get some folks to relocate from Jupiter to Atlantic City someday?

(What sort of endowment would you need to run an effective small research institute of this sort, anyway? Would 1 billion dollars keep 100 working scientists around for ~20 years? I presume that it's reasonable to presume that a billion would throw off ~40 million bucks a year that could fund an operating budget, so you'd need what? 500 million to fix the physical plant of the Revel, etc., to build your Tower of Geniuses? Anyone got a spare 1.5 billion dollars sitting around?)


  1. For a Tower of Geniuses in Atlantic City, one would also need a small army of police to keep the hookers and drug dealers at bay.

  2. Imagine Scripps Atlantic City, with casino chip for a top right circle of the logo.

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