Governor Chris Christie has appointed John Palmieri, former head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, as the executive director for New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. The head of the CRDA—which controls the Tourism District—has become the most powerful and important position in the second-largest U.S. gaming market.
The CRDA job had been open since February, when former executive director Tom Carver resigned. Susan Ney Thompson, who worked under Carver and was considered for the top spot, was appointed interim executive director. She shepherded the agency in its absorption of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor’s Authority, as well as the Special Improvement District. In April, the CRDA assumed planning and development powers in the Tourism District, the state-sanctioned zone created to make Atlantic City a safer, more inviting place. The district encompasses the beach, Boardwalk, casinos, Marina District, Gardner’s Basin and Bader Field. Thompson will remain at the CRDA as the deputy director.
Most local officials agree that Palmieri, with 25 years of economic redevelopment experience, has what it takes to do the job. A Hoboken native, Palmieri spent 15 years leading development efforts in Providence, Rhode Island, before taking up a similar cause in Charlotte, North Carolina.s
One of his most significant achievements in Charlotte was the establishment of an arts and entertainment district, which the CRDA has been pushing for in Atlantic City. In Boston, Palmieri oversaw the expansion of Liberty Mutual’s headquarters, as well as the opening of three theaters and the construction of new health centers in the city. He kept the Boston Redevelopment Authority on track and producing during the recession, and helped the city grow. Palmieri, 60, left the BRA in May after four years.
Palmieri’s appointment comes at a crucial time for Atlantic City. Suffering severe gaming losses over the past five years due to neighboring competition, the resort town has tried to reinvent itself as a destination market offering more than just casinos. Palmieri has stated that he will implement the kind of changes that were successful in Boston, including an emphasis on growing the local health care and research industries, as well as offering diverse cultural options.