Sunday, November 3, 2013

SugarHouse Expansion: More of the Same

SugarHouse Casino's most recent expansion proposal aims the site at the Delaware River. While private investment in Philadelphia beleaguered working river is a good thing, the lackluster expansion that once promised the city an exciting high rise gives advocates both for and against our city's casinos reason to pause.

The $155M expansion will include more event space and dining options, but the only thing challenging the Delaware River skyline will be a new seven story parking garage. The gaming floor will also be increased by 27,000 square feet. Let's be honest, this is where the money is.

In addition to improvements to the existing space, SugarHouse will be widening the streets surrounding the property to ease traffic congestion. Unfortunately this will make a project that once claimed to be a friendly neighbor feel more like an isolated strip mall than it already does.

While the DWRC has finally put some realistic plans in place for rejoining Center City with Penn's Landing, SugarHouse is further separating the Northern Delaware from any life but its own.

Where are the improvements that benefit its neighbors? Instead of spending $12M to accommodate more traffic, build smart and invest in improvements that get gamblers to the casino without traffic.

It's unfortunate enough that SugarHouse's site has abandoned any attempt to integrate itself into the fabric of the city, but sadly the beast is now eating away at the surrounding property with wider roads. The seven story parking garage appears to replace the large surface lot north of the casino but the asphalt prairie to the south will likely remain.

While SugarHouse and the city itself seem hell bent on ignoring the mistakes of the 70s by allowing this suburbanized plan to sprawl, hopefully we'll look twice at the dazzling proposals for Provence and Market8. When a plan calls for a "phased development," can it be trusted, or is it just a developer's cheap trick and an easy way to obtain permits?

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