Friday, January 24, 2014

Philadelphia Live! Casino

Have you ever looked at a map of South Philadelphia's Stadium District and wondered what its gridded streetscape would look like if the grid was actually developed? Have you driven past the prairies of parking lots east of Broad Street and wished the city didn't seem to end a few blocks south of Oregon Avenue? What if the burgeoning Navy Yard office complexes were woven into the urban fabric of South Philadelphia?

Despite the Stadium District's ample parking and convenient location, right next to I-76, I-95, and the Walt Whitman Bridge, many people - politcos mainly - complain about its relationship with the city. So much so that proposals have been pitched to relocate the Phillies stadium above the railroad tracks north of 30th Street Station and even leveling much of Callowhill and dropping it right above Chinatown.

For what? A better view of the skyline? Let's face it, we're not Pittsburgh, but we don't want to be. We're a major city, a huge city, and dare I say, a World Class city. Sure we have a lot of vacant land, but we don't have a lot of stadium sized vacant land, at least not offering an overwhelming view of the skyline.

One of the cases made whenever a politician suggests relocating the stadium is the foot traffic that could benefit Center City businesses. But in University City or Callowhill, a stadium wouldn't put baseball fans downtown much easier than it does where it is on South Broad. The city would still be saddled with rebuilding a neighborhood of attractions surrounding the stadium, and the view from the Stadium District is actually pretty phenomenal for a city this big.

Instead of bringing the stadiums to the city, which is thankfully a dead idea, the city could be brought to the Stadium District.

Well, that might happen.

Cordish Company

The Cordish Company that operates Live! Casino & Hotel has asked for the city's second casino license at 900 Packer Avenue. While casino proposals have been made for Market East and North Broad's Inquirer Building, both burdened with reasonable neighborhood opposition, the Stadium District has routinely been the "duh" location for the city's second casino.

It's a no-neighbors, already-an-entertainment district, and its blocks and blocks of surface parking lots that isolate the Navy Yard from the city are begging for development, and business.

Unlike SugarHouse's empty promise of a hotel on the waterfront, Live!'s casino within the Stadium District doesn't just have the economic motivation to actually build a hotel, but the existing stadium traffic make non-casino entertainment and retail a no-brainer.

The only head-scratcher is the state's distance restriction on its casinos. It makes sense outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We don't want to turn a struggling coal town into Branson, MO with slot machines. But Pennsylvania has proven time and time again that it doesn't really understand Philadelphia. Since the casino debacle begin, many have wondered why the state didn't initially put both casinos - or more - in the Stadium District in the first place.


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