Thursday, December 21, 2006

Philadelphia Casino Locations: the "Worst-Case Scenario"

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Inga Saffron neatly sums up the ill-considered decision to locate two casinos on Philadelphia's waterfront:
For those who care about the way cities look and function, the Gaming Control Board's decision to anoint Foxwoods and SugarHouse heirs to Philadelphia's two gambling licenses is the worst-case scenario. The winners offered the fewest amenities, uninspired designs, and two of the most cramped and inconvenient sites.
These bad decisions didn't happen by accident, but were almost preordained by a process designed to impose casinos on communities that don't want them and don't need them. Having spent two years working in Northern Liberties, I'm more familiar with the site of the SugarHouse Casino, which is to be located at Delaware Avenue and Frankfort.
The fundamental problem with this location is that it will severely impact the thriving communities of Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Casinos can be thought of as the economic development option of last resort. When your local economy is a basket case, when all else fails in terms of attracting new construction and jobs, call in the casinos. But the communities surrounding the SugarHouse location are hardly basket cases. Northern Liberties has been a hotbed of redevelopment for several years, and Fishtown is experiencing the spillover and rising real estate prices as a result. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in new condos in Northern Liberties and the nearby waterfront in the last few years. A five tower, luxury condo project is rising just a few blocks south of Delaware and Frankfort.
The community doesn't need the casinos, which brings me to the second problem with the process. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in its mad rush to get its hands on gambling revenue, set up a process that gives local residents essentially no say in site selection. If the reason for building casinos (other than filling government coffers) is to create development where none is likely to exist, then why shut local communities out of the process? Philadelphia is a big place, with miles of abandoned waterfront.
The tacky design and name of the project add insult to injury. "SugarHouse" sounds much too like one of the fading gentlemen's clubs the communities have been working so hard to shut down.
To get involved in protecting Philly's waterfront communities,
Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront ( and Casino-Free Philadelphia ( are the umbrella organizations working to protect the interests of those neighborhoods being railroaded.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least they saved Gettysburg.

5:12 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Which brings to mind Russell Baker's timeless comment:

"The sinister nature of the American soil is apparent in places like Gettysburg. Fertilize it with the blood of heroes and it brings forth a frozen-custard stand."

5:18 PM, December 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even as economic development project of last resort they don't work that well. Just walk one block off the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Slots revenue is like heroin to a state legislature. Delaware should be in rhab right now - but I think we'll move from the heroin of slots to the crack cocaine of sports betting pretty soon.

11:18 PM, December 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a NY Times article about fishtown last year about this time.

As I recall they said it was a cool, hip, upcoming place for people priced out of Brooklyn.

11:22 PM, December 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Casinos can be thought of as the economic development option of last resort."

Amen, Tom.

I echoed the sentiment in my News Journal 1st SD campaign Q&A :

"Gambling is not where Delaware should be banking its economic future. It is truly a sad state of affairs when the best our “leaders” can do for our State’s economic development is to resort to an expansion of gambling, in the hope it will shore up our State government’s tenuous long-term revenue stability."

Gambling is an economic development bet the "house" wins always and ONLY.

10:57 AM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Jason, the NYT story you read ran in August of last year. It infamously referred to Philly as the next or sixth borough, due to the influx of artists priced out of NYC. Northern Liberties and Fishtown were mentioned. Let's hope the artists aren't completely priced out of NoLibs.

10:10 AM, December 23, 2006  

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