Sunday, February 17, 2013

Casino Craze: Part Deux

Bart Blatstein resurrected the Great Casino Debate with his proposed entertainment complex at the Inquirer Building which, admittedly, I think is a bit too Vegas for Center City. Not the casino itself, mind you, but the Tiny Town he proposed building on the roof of the building.

With a little excitement behind the second leg of the debate (and a lot of resistance), developer Ken Goldenberg has thrown his name into the casino hat with a proposal at a much more logical location: Market East. More specifically, the abhorred Disney Hole. Of course it's easy to dub this proposal Disney 2.0, but the same could be said for any entertainment project of this scale.

The preliminary rendering is vague at best, but pretty sleek. Backed by Campus Apartments and Deutsch Bank, the promise of investors are just as exciting as a destination attraction on our forlorn Market East.

Called Market8, Goldberg is off to a good start claiming the entertainment complex will only "happen to have a casino." The venue would offer numerous restaurants and retail, and best of all, underground parking.

Bye-bye, Disney Hole.

Hey, I'm a dreamer.

The multi-faceted approach isn't just the best way to pitch a casino, but the city should have required the approach all along.

SugarHouse was one of the city's biggest planning debacles. The proposal was grand, but phased, and the first phase called for a slot barn and a parking garage.

It's funny how the city decides to exert its muscle. They micromanage parks and condos, but when it came to SugarHouse, there were no caveats.

For the record, I'm all for casinos. Not personally. They're trashy, tacky, and for me, a waste of money. However, the same could be said for City Council itself.

But Philadelphia is big enough to provide plenty of entertainment for everyone. A lot of people sell the city short, not the least of which are those who rabidly charge themselves with saving Market East. Those activists have cost the city millions debating benign improvements to this part of town.

Philadelphia is chock full of quaint Colonialism, but we aren't Williamsburg and Market East isn't the place to preserve history, particularly when its few historic properties are already protected. Give the Capitalists their playground.

With that said, the State and City missed the mark with SugarHouse, and we have a second chance to work hand in hand with private developers to mark drastic improvements to our city's core.

I will never understand why the city didn't grant SugarHouse a casino license only contingent on better development. SugarHouse's proposal had plenty of competition. They would have done anything to get that license. The city missed an opportunity to get a lot of free improvements. City Council could have gotten more than just the dynamic casino complex SugarHouse originally proposed, we could have gotten a free Delaware Avenue lightrail.

At this point SugarHouse can likely claim that it's not profitable to expand it's non-gaming oriented entertainment or hotel. I doubt that's true, but the city put no requirements on them to expand, so they're content. If the city required a hotel and convention space as part of SugarHouse's "Phase 1" the project would be a lot more exciting than it is.

If Market8 has a chance at becoming a reality, the city should seize the opportunity to not just require more than a casino from Goldenberg's venue, but ask him to flip the bill for some of the improvements this corridor desperately needs.

1 comment:

  1. I think you forget that the city had (and has) almost no power over the choice of the casino developer, its location, or its design. Almost all of the power is with the state and the Gaming Control Board. SugarHouse is an absolute disgrace, but it's not the city's fault. It seems this time around, the developers are being a bit more attentive to design. Let's hope they stick to it, and that they don't decide to build in phases which almost never get past the first stage.