Foxwoods, Philadelphia Reach Deal

Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia agreed Monday to invest in the city and preserve a public riverfront in exchange for the city of Philadelphia's cooperation on land-use issues.

A year ago this month, Foxwoods won a gaming license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board that would allow its $560 million slots parlor on Columbus Boulevard in the Pennsport section of South Philadelphia. But the Supreme Court recently denied Foxwoods' petition to force the city to approve zoning permits. Resolution to the case had been referred to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, where it is still pending.

Foxwoods has obtained Planning Commission approval, but still needs several building and zoning permits from the city, said project spokeswoman Maureen Garrity, a senior vice president with Tierney Communications.

“We won't pursue (the lawsuit) at this point because we believe we can work out (issues) with the city,” Garrity said.

Nor will Foxwoods abandon the lawsuit, however, until it gets the permits it needs, she said.

Under the new agreement, Foxwoods has committed to improving city sewer and storm water systems, alleviating the effect of increased traffic in the city, and providing free public access to the Delaware River waterfront, according to a joint statement.

Also part of the terms of the deal are a tax abatement package over the next 10 years, starting in 2009; funding from Foxwoods for “green-friendly” construction; funding contributions for associated emergency services costs; and a commitment to hire “diverse, local” employee and construction workforces.

Over the next 12, years, City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. noted that the city would receive tax and settlement payments under this deal that “generate between $64 million and $82 million for the city and school district, above and beyond what is generated from gaming host fees.”

About $30 million from Foxwoods will pay for enhanced municipal services, improved transportation along Delaware Avenue and the contributions to sewer improvements, he said.

For its part, Philadelphia officials have agreed to work with the company on timely reviews of all necessary permits and approvals to move the first phase of the project forward.

Foxwoods, through Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners LP, and its competitor, SugarHouse, have already proposed extensive road improvements, mostly along Columbus Boulevard.

The company has also run into neighborhood opposition, with residents suing the gaming control board over its project and the SugarHouse plan.

“The city of Philadelphia and Foxwoods have created a relationship under which Foxwoods can utilize its resources to benefit both the city as a whole and our neighbors,” Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia General Manager James L. Dougherty said. “And it puts Foxwoods on track to move toward the approvals we need to begin construction.”

Diaz said the city intends to work closely with Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia to support the safety, services and quality of life.

“The arrival of gaming will bring tremendous benefits to the city as a whole, and this agreement addresses a number of key neighborhood impact issues,” Diaz said.

Dougherty said the agreement would enable the city and Foxwoods to try and resolve the issue of flooding in the neighborhood where the casino would be built.

Foxwoods will pay up to $5 million to fund a new, enlarged sewer/rainwater pipe to provide additional capacity for the Tasker Street and Reed Street system, which ties into the city's storm water system and will speed up improvements to the entire sewer system throughout South Philadelphia. Plans must be approved by the city's Water Department.

Foxwoods also will fund a new Special Services District to encompass the neighboring communities in the amount of at least $1 million a year after the casino is open. Foxwoods will also make $50,000 available to fund organizational and start-up expenses.

The deal will be officially ratified in about a week, Garrity said.
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