The Philadelphia City Planning Commission convenes today to review legislation that would allow the controversial Foxwoods Casino to open in the Gallery at 11th and Market streets.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose district includes the Gallery, proposed the city block containing the Gallery be designated a commercial entertainment district at an open Council session last Thursday.
In order for a casino to be built at the Gallery, the area must have this zoning designation.
DiCicco did not intend the legislation to be an endorsement of the casino, he said at the session, but rather as an incentive for Foxwoods to remain interested in the site while the city reviews arguments for and against the casino opening there.
Although the Commission probably won't make a final decision on the legislation today, according to Terry Gillen, Mayor Michael Nutter's point person on the casino issue, DiCicco's proposal "keeps the options open."
DiCicco did not return multiple calls for comment.
Foxwoods formerly expressed interest in a site on the Delaware riverfront, where the SugarHouse Casino intends to build, but Nutter and DiCicco oppose the development of either casino on the riverfront.
While Foxwoods "preserves our right to build" at that site, said Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity, the casino is now "evaluating the viability of the Gallery site" as well.
"If we decide at the end of the evaluation period that the Gallery is a better route to take, we'll go with that," she said.
Garrity estimated that evaluation would be complete "certainly sooner than the end of next year."
SugarHouse, on the other hand, is sticking to the riverfront site.
"We don't believe that relocation is an option," said SugarHouse spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker. "Our location has been approved by the gaming board and we're ready to move our project forward."
But "casinos were not consistent with the civic vision" for that area, according to Harris Steinberg, director of Penn Praxis, the consulting division of Penn's School of Design.
In 2006, then-Mayor John Street commissioned Penn Praxis to develop a vision for the Delaware riverfront. City and Penn Praxis officials have consistently said casinos aren't compatible with the Penn Praxis plan.
Steinberg said he thinks the Gallery is a much better site for Foxwoods.
Still, he said, the city needs to seriously consider cultural objections to the casino.
"Chinatown has been adamant in their resistance to it because of issues around gaming and gambling addiction within the Asian community," Steinberg said.
But Chinatown is only half of the area surrounding the Gallery - the Foxwoods casino would sit on the border between Chinatown and the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philadelphia.
When the city held meetings with Washington Square residents, Gillen said, attendees "asked a lot of questions but didn't come out for or against the casino."Comments powered by Disqus
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