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Foxwoods Philly Moves Ahead

Maryclaire Dale

Publication: The Day

Published January 20. 2009 4:00AM   Updated December 11. 2009 1:22PM
Formal plan in works for downtown casino

Philadelphia - Foxwoods casino officials are moving forward with a revised plan for Philadelphia that would situate a slots parlor near Chinatown and the city's historic district.

Foxwoods will spend several months drafting a detailed plan for a casino at The Gallery at Market East, a struggling downtown shopping mall, city officials said Monday.

Alan Greenberger, executive director of the city planning commission, estimated the city would render a verdict on the casino plan before Foxwoods asks state gaming officials to approve the revised site.

”It's a unique situation that the Gaming Control Board is going to have to figure out how they want to deal with,” Greenberger said Monday. “But it isn't impacting what we need to do, which is to get them to start developing a design so we can critique it, shape it, and either approve it or disapprove it.”

Foxwoods had planned to build on the Delaware River waterfront in South Philadelphia but agreed last fall to consider other sites amid outcries from community residents.

The Chinatown site, though, may prove no less contentious. Casino opponents, along with residents of Chinatown and others, are fighting the plan. They say the new site - just four blocks from Independence Mall - is still too close to residential neighborhoods and would cause congestion in the historic area.

A decade ago, Chinatown residents successfully fought plans to build sports stadiums in the area.

Foxwoods must also contend with rail lines that run beneath the new site and the constraints of the existing building. Although The Gallery shopping mall takes up several city blocks, the casino would be housed in a single block of Market Street from 10th to 11th streets, Greenberger said.

The city in the next few months plans to hold public meetings on the casino issue in both Chinatown and nearby Washington Square West, mayoral spokesman Luke Butler said in Monday's statement.

The development plan will include drawings of how the casino would look from the street; a management plan for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic; parking and public transportation considerations; and an evaluation of security needs, gambling addiction and other issues.

Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity said the company planned to go first to the city planning commission and then to the City Council before seeking approval from the Gaming Control Board, but she said there was no projected timeline for doing so.

Several city agencies, including the planning and commerce departments and the redevelopment authority, will consider the proposal before votes by the planning commission and City Council.

Under the 2004 law that legalized slot-machine gambling in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia was guaranteed two of the 14 casinos statewide. The gaming board subsequently awarded licenses for the SugarHouse casino, owned by a company headed by Chicago billionaire Neil G. Bluhm, and the Foxwoods facility being developed by a company led by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians of Connecticut.

Community opposition and other issues have also stalled plans for the SugarHouse casino in the Fishtown/Northern Liberties neighborhood.

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