Friday, November 14, 2008

Planning Starts for Downtown Casino

The Nutter Administration
isn't wasting any time in laying the planning groundwork for a Center City casino. No sooner did City Council approve the creation of a Market Street entertainment district yesterday , then the Planning Department and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. posted advertisements seeking five separate consultants to help the city prepare for the expected arrival of a Foxwoods slots parlor in the western end of The Gallery.
The job with the greatest implication for the city's future is the one listed third, calling for a firm capable of developing a strategic plan for the Market Street East corridor, from the Convention Center to Independence Mall, Chinatown to Wash West. The big reason that a Gallery-based casino has drawn such wide support is that many are convinced it will be the catalyst for new development on that tired street. Writing in the Center City District's Fall newsletter, Paul Levy argues that the casino will enable the city to use a special financing mechanism called a TIF to pay for infrastructure, transit and streetscape improvements, which would presumably make the street more attractive to hotels, retail and other development. It's astonishing how that once great shopping street has been allowed to languish. Poor Strawbridge & Clothier has been waiting for a suitor for well over a year. Which, of course, is nothing compared to the lifespan of the empty lot at 8th and Market - over 30 years. In the last few months, the number of empty storefronts has been increasing at an alarming clip.
Ideally, the development of the city's strategic plan will be accompanied by a vigorous public debate about how Market Street should evolve, similar to the open and lively conversations that occurred during the Penn Praxis study of the Delaware waterfront. Several people, including Levy in the Center City District newsletter, have been floating the idea of turning Market Street into Philadelphia's answer to Times Square, and allowing the same kind of exuberant lighting and signage. Just recently, the head of the Redevelopment Authority, Terry Gillen, who has been advising Mayor Nutter on the casinos, raised the possibility that SugarHouse may ask the city for a Market Street location - the obvious choice being the big empty lot at 8th and Market.
While Nutter says he strongly opposes a second downtown casino, it's not too early to start worrying that he could reverse that position. One casino, located on the third floor of the Gallery's anonymous box, is something, I believe, the area could absorb. But add a second, purpose-built casino and you start to create a gambling district. Better to talk about other uses that could be compatible with Foxwoods, like hotels and shops. It's not even unreasonable to imagine someday - after the current bust subsides - some residential towers creeping onto Market Street.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So with the dawn of a gambling district, is the city completely giving up on any serious business redevelopment? You know, like in the past, where this city had homegrown, world-class corporations like the Pennsylvania Railroad and Curtis Publishing Company-businesses that actually created wealth instead of redistributing it. So much time, energy, and thought is going into planning for casinos that we're dropping the ball in more important growth areas, and cities like Charlotte are happy to benefit from our failure.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gambling district? I think that we are jumping to conclusions, people.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WAKE UP! The steps taken by City Council on November 13th should be troubling to all neighborhoods and communities, not only in Philadelphia, but in the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The way casino gambling laws were crafted in Harrisburg and pursued in Philadelphia are troubling. People rights are being violated. The means by which communities can protect itself from the establishment of undesirable enterprises in their neighborhood are being stripped away.
The rapid passage of the Commercial Entertainment District (CED) for the Gallery site is an example of how it can be done. The precedent has been set, so that if the powers to be wish to support a night club, a theater or some other inappropriate facility right next door to residents, all they have to do is follow what they have succeeded in doing at the Gallery.
What they can do to the least of their brethrens, they can do it to all.

It took City Council less than two month to pass an ordinance that enables casinos to be built at the Gallery. No plan. No drawings. No study. Only two minutes allotted to each opponent to comment at a single five hour committee hearing. No discussion among Council members at either committee or full council sessions before the bills 080741 and 080742 were approved.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, the administration wasted time listening to the special interests of a few NIMBYS. These same NIMBYS that will benefit fit from the money generated by the 54% tax on the gambling halls. (not the 7% that AC has) Wasted time trying to stop development instead of creating it. The Casinos are NOT for Philadelphians but for the tourism that is one of the few industries left here. Wasted time in worrying about his legacy with the waterfront that has laid dormant for generations and because of the present financial crisis, will lay dormant for a few more...
I'm a Nutter fan, but I'm not a fan of the people that don't want a LEGAL industry to build here and spend more money than ANY OTHER new business coming here.
Stop wasting MY time with rhetoric and short sighted mentality and not caring about the rest of the city.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

inappropriate? maybe if people here spent as much time fixing the city as they do complaining and telling everyone what's appropriate or inappropriate we wouldn't have a city that has been mismanaged for so many years. Still, IF they were going to resite both, I'd like to see one n broad st rather than both on east market.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ 12:03 - I agree that if people spent half the time they do complaining to actually do something constructive, the city would be in much better shape. I agree that entertainment/retail is not the sole solution to Market East's problems. The lot at 8th and Market should be used for a world class commercial office building. With all of the transit connections, it could make the connections that Comcast Center and the proposed American Commerce Center boast small in comparison.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to pose a question to the group. Often we hear that if the state allowed Table Games then the clientele would be wealthier. Does anyone have any objective evidence of this?

To push it a bit: do we really think that wealthy people from the suburbs are going to come to Market East to play blackjack, and then spend money in restaurants and stores downtown? Is that a realistic expectation?

Does anyone have any thoughts or info to share?

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very troubled that Nutter the reformer came in, but instead of opening up the RDA and PAID to public scrutiny, to public benchmarks, with teeth, he just put Terri Gillen in charge of the RDA. I don't recall electing her. The RDA is closed, opaque, politically beholden, a haven for pay to play. That's the past, and it seems to be the present. If Terri Gillen's track record as ward leader of the 30th is any indication, there's a lot of Universal Companies properties and Odunde lots that are just sitting, not paying property or business taxes, vacant, empty. The agreements to develop them just get the dates changed when they expire. There's no accountability. There's no drop dead date or we sell at auction. There's no realization that all these properties in the 30th should and could be paying market rate, top dollar property taxes instead of draining revenues. This is blight by city policy. It's just not working. This is the person in charge of the RDA now. How is this going to result in gaming that isn't shaming?

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no way that the people who authored the city policy created blight that makes the RDA, PAID, and the city top property tax delinquents can be expected to comprehend the market well enough to make a casino that thrives. It'll be the Gallery, redux. Don't take my word for it, look at the city's own information, information that Gillen is fond of saying is wrong, even as the administration's own Dept. of Revenue produces these numbers: -- this is proof that the city is its own worst property tax revenue and development enemy.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarification Inga: PIDC released their RFP the day before City Council voted, and days before the Mayor signed the bill into law.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These slots halls will be full of zombies. Go to Bensalem and Chester (two low-tier suburbs) and take a gander. SugarHouse ads show stylish and good-looking 30 and 40-somethings. Very, very comical. Table games will bring a wealthier clientele...but it will also bring a young ercrowd...and crime. We won't win no matter where or how.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Normally I would be kind of opposed to slots, but can the gallery and its clientele get any worse. I really dont think so. I would have to think the casino is slighlty better than this slice of ghetto.

4:55 PM  

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