Is The Former Philadelphia Inquirer Site The Best Location For A Casino?

Philadelphia's Bart Blatstein believes his Casino Proposal, The Provence, is the best location and most transformative for Philadelphia. Consultant AKRF found that Blatstein's planned casino, hotel and entertainment complex would generate the most city and state tax revenue and bring in the most money through both gaming and non-gaming activity.  Blatstein even compares his project to resorts in Vegas.
Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger told PGCB that The Provence had the most potential if executed as proposed.

Blatstein said he will build the project in a single phase, as proposed: A Hotel in the towered, Broad Street portion of the former Inquirer Building; a second-story gaming floor in the former newsroom and in new construction stretching back to 16th Street; retail and restaurants fronting on Callowhill and a roof-top village with a swim club and entertainment and music venues.  An existing 820- car parking between 16th and 17th on Callowhill stays, but will be connected to the complex vie pedestrian bridge over 16th Street.

Read More at PlanPhilly.com


Schuylkill River Boardwalk

The 2,0000 foot long boardwalk extension of the Schulykill River Trail to the South Street Bridge continues to move forward, but unfortunately with delays.  All of the caissons, pier caps and beams are in place.  The major work remaining is building the deck on the main boardwalk and ramp, involving a pouring of 21 deck spans and five ramp spans.  The project should be complete late Fall of 2014.

The ramp and boardwalk are designed to accommodate emergency and maintenance vehicles.  The boardwalk's 15' wide pathway will be supplemented by four widened overlooks that will allow people to rest and enjoy the views along the boardwalk without blocking the trail.  This project will provide an important link to the Schuylkill River Trail and Center City from University City and West Philadelphia.


Market8 Casino Proposal

The developers of the proposed Market 8 Casino released a rending with PlanPhilly, replacing a former sleeker contemporary design with a more reserved look.  Market8 spokeswoman Maureen Garrity mentioned that their idea is to enliven East market Street, to bring people downtown, to draw people in, even if they are not interested in gambling.

The ground floor is designed to fully engage walkers and commuters, recognizing how vital the venue will be to the vitality of the East Market Street corridor.  Market Street will be very transparent, with doorways, tables and outdoor seating that will allow 8th and Market to become an attractive social place to meet for lunch, dinner, or coffee, creating energy and excitement at all hours of the day.

The new rendering features a 168-room hotel tower that will include a spa, fitness club and entertainment terrace with views of the Delaware River.  The first four floor will be visually and physically connected by escalators shaped around a focal 4 story digital video feature.  The second and third floors are dedicated to casino space with bars, fine and casual dining, live entertainment, VIP gaming and lounges.  The fourth floor includes a concert hall/multi-purpose venue which will accommodate live performances, banquets, meetings, and boxing, a poker room, and 2-story lounge with dining and dancing.  The fifth floor will be the hotel reception area and lounges.

All floors are focused around a dramatic central atrium and the higher floors are surrounded by outdoor terraces with vistas overlooking Eighth, Ninth and Market Streets and the cityscape beyond.

Philadelphia May Establish "Land Bank"

The City of Philadelphia plans to consolidate its inventory of distressed real estate totaling an estimated 40,000 abandoned houses, lots and commercial buildings.  The properties will be grouped into "land banks" to make purchase more attractive to potential buyers.

If the City Council votes this fall, as expected, to establish the land bank, Philadelphia will join a number of other cities that have adopted plans like it to encourage buyers who are committed to making improvements, instead of speculators, to acquire tax-delinquent properties.  To keep property from speculators who might sit on it for years without improving it, the land bank would insist that buyers were current on taxes, had no history of code violations and had the resources to make promised changes.

Advocates for the land banks envision a variety of uses for the abandoned properties, including market-rate and affordable housing, commercial development, and open space.  Other uses could include community gardens or urban farms.  For the last 17 years, a project known as Greensgrow has been growing vegetables and making compost on the site of a former galvanizing factory in a low-income area of North Philadelphia.

If Philadelphia moves forward with this, it will serve as a good model for many American cites affected by urban blight and loss of industry.

Source: New York Times

Procacci & PHL's Big Casino Plans

Joe Procacci has an enticing proposal for his Philadelphia Casino site, if he is granted the second gaming license.  Procacci's proposal includes a new entertainment district with restaurants, retail, sports facilities, zip-lines, a golf driving range, a dry ski/skateboarding park, water park, soccer fields, racquet sports facilities, an indoor swimming pool, rock climbing, and live music.

The Complex will be known as the LoSo Entertainment Center (short for Lower South).  it would sit adjacent to PHL Local Gaming's proposed Casino Revolution, on land that the Lower South District Comprehensive Plan identifies as the Food District area.  About 25 acres are currently owned by Procacci, with additional acreage now owned by the city.  The complex would be next to the casino, between the stadium Complex, public park land, and FDR Park Colf Club in the west, and the Delaware river in the east.

PHL Local spokesman Bruce Crawley, says there will be no loss of any existing jobs, at Procacci or other industrial tenants within the development footprint.  He says they will work with the city to have those jobs moved, businesses transferred, within the South Philadelphia community.  Developers believe the project would create a unique attraction that would appeal to local residents, as well as to visitors to the City of Philadelphia.  Visitors however would not have to actually enter the casino, itself, to participate in the Center's attractions.

The entertainment project is predicated on receiving the license because it would benefit from the casino and hotel, which Canfora said would "serve as a transformative catalyst for the overall Lower South District of the City of Philadelphia, enhancing economic impact and creating jobs and business opportunities.


CDAG Sends Letter To Gaming Board On Wynn Casino

The Central Delaware Advocacy Group recently sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week, reports PlanPhilly.  The letter states that the Wynn Philadelphia Casino proposal  wkould be a better Central Delaware fit if river access was improved, the parking garage took up less space, its roof was open for river-viewing and the entire design was more "contextually compatible" with the region.  The letter also states that CDAG "represents no particular disposition toward gaming and does not oppose, nor does it support, the Wynn Philadelphia Resort Proposal."

Wynn would not be bound by the Central Delaware Master Plan should he be granted the license.  If that happens, the city would place special casino zoning on the Richmond Street and Delaware Avenue parcel, which overrides underlying zoning, including the overlay.


One Riverside Tower

Carl Dranoff's mixed-use 20-story, 147 residential unit tower with adjacent cafe located at 25th and Locust streets, overcame a huge hurdle at last weeks Civic Design Review.  The Civic Design Review Committee considers the public realm impacts of large projects in Philadelphis.  The by-right project called One Riverside, designed by Cecil Baker Architects does not require any zoning board approval.

Dranoff will apply for for a final zoning permit from Licenses & inspections as soon as the CDR Committee submits documentation of the meeting, which is likely to happen over the next few weeks.

Blackstone's 191-unit Residence

Blackstone Development plans to build a 191-unit, mixed-use project on an industrial parcel at Germantown Ave. and Thompson Street in South Kensington.  The project was subject to Civic Design Review last week, with a largely positive outcome.  The project requires variances for residential and commercial uses in an industrial district.

The Committee applauded the developer for putting the parking facilities, containing 153 spaces, underground.  It also recommended that the developers consider removing some of the pedestrian entrances into the courtyard of the project and widening others.  Final approval has not yet been granted, more community meetings are planned.


Domani Developer's Fishtown Residences

PlanPhilly reports that, Domani Developers plan to convert an out-of-use industrial building at 1421 E. Columbia Ave., near Memphis Street in Fishtown, into a 57-unit apartment complex with a City Fitness gym on the ground floor.  Last week, September 3, the project was presented to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  The zoning application calls for the consolidation of eight lots into one lot.  These lots have since been used for a single building for some time now.  The applicant's zoning refusal from L&I was based on the RSA-5 residential zoning district, which appears to encompass some of the eight lots in the application, the other half of the property falls under I-2 industrial zoning classification.

The different zoning districts have different requirements and limitations for things like parking and density, and the multi-family project would require variances in either one.  The project includes 30 underground parking spaces and 57 bicycle parking spaces.  The local Fishtown Neighbors Association voted in support of the project as a whole, but surrounding neighbors opposed the project due to parking concerns.

Paula Brumbelow, a representative of the Planning Commission, said that the Commission supports the granting of the variances for both the residential units and the fitness center, but asked that the developer continue to work on mitigating parking congestion.

Race Street Flows To The Sound of Music

In a few weeks on October 1, Philadelphia musician and sound designer Michael Kiley and his ensemble, The Mural and the Mint, will release Animina: A Race Street Pier Sound Walk.  Kiley used recorded sounds found along the river- including the train whistle, and wrote lyrics and music that play on themes related to the river, the pier, and the city's overarching goal for the pier and other Central Delaware projects, "Re-linking the city to the riverfront."

Artist: Michael Kiley

The music can be accessed through the use of a $.99 cell phone app and GPS technology.  The song changes while the listener walks from 2nd and Race streets in Old City to the end of the Pier and back again.  For example, the lyrics "In front of you/ at the end of the road/ is someone you once lost long ago," will be heard as " Is someone you once lost long ago/ in front of you/ at the end of the road" when the listener walks in the opposite direction.

The app's use of GPS limits user ability to requiring people to physically visit the Pier and Race Street Connector to fully experience Kiley's art. It forces users to visit the neighborhood to experience the art. The concept could prove successful, leading to future adaptations to other sites along the river.


Philly Bike Share

The City of Philadelphia is scheduled to roll out its new bike sharing program some time in late summer of 2014. The network will work similar to systems in cities from Washington, New York, toronto, London, and Paris.  It will comprise of 150 to 200 bike share stations.  The city will locate 1,500 to 2,000 bicycles available for short-term rental.  the rental system is structured in a way that allows for a bike to be picked up from one station and returned to any other station, given there is space.  The idea is that people will be able to use the bikes to commute, run an errand, tour the city or get some exercise.

According to PlanPhilly Mayor Nutter has already committed $3 million in capital budget funding toward bike share, and those leading the endeavor expect building the bike share network to cost $10 million to $15 million.  the remaining funding is expected to come from state and federal transportation grants as well as some private funds.  Once the system is up and running it is expected to be self sufficient and will not require any public operating subsidy.  Philadelphia's bike share is projected to generate nearly 2 million trips per year with residents, commuters, students and visitors taking part.  Thousands of users are expected each day.  The stations will be located throughout the city from the Delaware River west into West Philly and from The Navy Yard north beyond Temple University's main campus.


Wynn Casinos Surprising Community Support

Members of the Olde Richmond Civic Association overwhelmingly in a 191-20 voted voiced their support for the proposed Wynn Resorts riverfront casino at 2055 Richmond Street.  Wynn likely appealed to the desire of the neighborhood to create a brand for itsELf while also offering beautiful public space, and unadulterated views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

In addition to 2,500 slot machines and 100 game tables, the resort will contain luxurious hotel suites, spa, restaurants, a 30,000-square foot nightclub, green space that includes a dog park, ice cream stand, skating rink and other features.  The $900 million Wynn Philadelphia casino would be the largest private development min the history of Pennsylvania.


1919 Market Update

Today the Zoning Board of Adjustment met to consider granting two variances and one special exception to Brandywine Realty Trust for their proposed residential tower at 1919 Market street.

The proposed 29-story tower sits on an empty lot at 20th and Market streets.  The lot was cleared decades ago to make way for a twin tower to the blue Cross Tower.  The 351 foot tower will contain 278 residential units with retail space on the ground floor, and a 223-space parking garage constructed above ground at the rear of the property.

The Developers need two variances in order to move forward with the project.  The first is one for the width of the side yard on 20th Street and for a curb cut providing access into the parking garage.  They will need a special exception for above-ground parking in the CMX-5 zoning district.  To prevent its granting, objectors would have to prove that the use would be detrimental to the neighborhood beyond what might normally be expected from such a use.  The developers were also asked to explain the cost difference in putting the parking garage undergroundverses above-ground.


Ridge Flats Gets "Green Light"

Ridge Flats finally received a green light by the Zoning Board of Adjustments last Wednesday Afternoon.  The 146-unit apartment complex at 4300 Ridge Avenue in East falls will contain some retail space on the ground floor, as well as 120 above-grade parking spaces.  parking is kept  above ground due to the property's location in the 100 year floodplain.

Although under the East falls zoning overlay, the project requires 695 parking spaces – four spots for every 1,000 feet of commercial space, no one, including the East Falls Development Corporation thinks that amount is necessary.  The developer said the retail uses will be community-based and geared toward pedestrians.

The building will be the largest "passive house" in the country.  Onion Flats' Tim McDonald explains that in passive houses, energy usage can be reduced by as much as 90 percent just by the way the "thermal envelope' is designed.

The one- and two- bedroom apartments at Ridge Flats will likely range in price from $1,300 to $2,000 a month.  The developers plan to pull permits and begin construction next spring.


Franklin Square Capital Moves To Navy Yard

Philly Bizjournal reports on the future move from the Cira Center to the Navy Yard by Franklin Square Capital Partners.  Liberty Property Trust and Synterra Partners will construct a new four-story, 80,050-square-foot building for the firm.

Franklin Square signed a long-term lease for the entire building, located on about 4 acres next to the Courtyard by Marriott that is currently under construction at 201 Rouse Boulevard. "We are excited to keep our headquarters in Philadelphia and to join the growing community at the Navy Yard," said Michael Forman, founder and CEo of Franklin Square.

The new headquarters will have views of both the new park and Philadelphia's skyline, a café-style restaurant, a multi-use exercise facility, conference facilities, and floor plans full of natural light and designed to foster team interaction.  Liberty and Synterra expect to begin construction next month and complete the building in the first quarter of 2015.

The Parkway; How Should We Plan For Its Future?

An ongoing discussion continues on in an article in The Wall Street Journal, "Rethinking Philadelphia's Boulevard of Broken Dreams".  The article addresses past, present, and future dreams, plans and changes to the parkway and questions "What is the best way to move forward?".

Paul Levy, president and CEO of Philadelphia's Center City District reflects on his past attempt to re-imagine the city's grand diagonal boulevard as a higher-density urban space.  An unsuccessful attempt, however from that, the re-pedestrianizing of the parkway caught on.  The current plan by Harris Steinberg, founding executive director of PennPraxis, considers how to connect the boulevard into the life of the city.  Dubbed "More Park, Less Way",  the plan focuses on turning four parcels of underutilized open space into lively neighborhood parks with amenities such as yoga, volleyball, chess boards, food kiosks and cultural programming.  The aim is to make the parkway as enticing a destination for city residents and tourists.

The formerly inhospitable roadway now has bike lanes and crosswalks, renovated sidewalks and benches, nighttime illumination, new parks and cafés, better signage, a restored Rodin Museum and Logan Circle, Sister Cities Park, and the move of the Barnes Foundation's gallery to the parkway.  Soon there will be a Mormon Temple at 17th and Vive streets and a hotel to occupy the Family Court building.

The question that remains now after its been cleaned up is "What do we want it to be?" says Michael DiBerardinis, the city's deputy mayor for environmental and community resources and commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation.  As Philadelphia continues to work toward being America's Next Great City, it's grandest boulevard for sure must stand well against any of its counterparts around the world.  Read more at WSJ.com


Renaissance Plaza

The new plan for Renaissance plaza on Delaware Avenue involves a residential and retail complex developed by Carl Marks Real Estate.  The project will take the place of the former World Trade Center site proposed years ago.  The new proposal calls for shorter towers, more retail, and more green public space.  The complex is half the height of the 430 foot-tall proposal presented last summer. Architect Bill Alesker of Alesker & Dundon said the height changes and dramatically altered plan was due in part to feedback from civic organizations and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. In my personal opinion, the design could be more innovative and blend more seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhoods.  The architects are extremely bland and lazy when it comes to design, evident of all their previous work.  Short buildings can still be beautiful..... Always a let down Philadelphia.

Old proposal

Continuing on....... under this years proposal, the tallest of five towers is 240 feet.  The 1,411 units are mostly two bedrooms with two equal-sized master suites and one-bedroom units.  Rents are estimated to be about $1,800 to $3,300 per month.

The project would seek LEED Gold status, and would be built in five phases.  The developer is committed to building the first two buildings along with parking and public green space, and the other phases would follow, depending on demand.  Construction should start in Spring 2014, with a following 16 month timeline for the first phase.

Designers added a swath of landscaped public space to run through the property with hopes that it will draw people from the neighborhoods through the property, and down to the river.  Some roofs would offer additional green space.  The developers also hope that the early phases of the development will not only create demand for later phases, but would also spur other development along the Central Delaware.


Ridge Flats Receives Design Approval

Ridge Flats received an endorsement last Tuesday July 2, by the Civic Design Review Committee, which is charged with evaluating the public realm impacts of large development projects.  The  five-story, 146 unit, mixed use apartment complex, proposed for the former Rivage site at 4300-4326 Ridge Avenue, will be built to "passive house" standards: a hyper-efficient building standard intended to produce a "net zero" energy impact.

According to PlanPhilly, Tim McDonald of Onion Flats told the CDR Committee that the project will include 9,300 square feet of retail space, most of which is intended to be frequented by pedestrians in the neighborhood, not destination outlets that people would want to drive to.  A "cafe and lookout" are planned for the corner of Kelly Drive and Calumet Street.  The building will also have green roofs and a rain garden.

Chinatown's Eastern Tower Project Moves Forward

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation disclosed at a meeting Tuesday Night to Chinatown residents that it will pull building permits and begin construction on the Eastern Tower in the next six to nine months.  Easter Tower will be a 23-story mixed-use apartment complex and community center at 10th and Vine streets.

The building, designed by KlingStubbins and Lisa Armstrong of A K Architecture,  will contain 143 residential units, 31 of which will be affordable for "moderate income" households earning up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The market-rate apartments will rent for around $1,700 for a one-bedroom and $2,500 for a two-bedroom. The developers are still rounding up funding for the project, estimated to cost $71 million.

The project will include 10,000 square feet of retail space, plus banquet and recreational space to be available to the community.  the cost to operate the community center is estimated at $255,000 yearly, and John Chin, PCDC Director, promised that recreational space and community services will always be available to community members.


Drexel Rail Yard Study & Transit-Oriented Development

Drexel university has big plans for the Most Eastern fringes of University City North of Chestnut Street.  The university also is exploring a possible future neighborhood built over the SEPTA and AMTRAK rail yards near 30th Street Station.  Drexel approached AMTRAK and SEPTA with the idea of doing an engineering and air rights study, which Drexel will pay for.  in addition to the railroads, PennDOT, PIDC, the University of Pennsylvania, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler are involved in the discussions.

University President John Anderson Fry estimates the study will cost between $2 million and $3 million, and take about three years.  Putting some sort of cap over the rail yards could create 80 to 90 acres of development space, he said.

Drexel initiated the rail yard possibility because it is in the construction and planning stages of a list of projects around 30th Street Station, in hopes of transforming the neighborhood into a transit-oriented "Innovation Neighborhood" for education, research, technology and commercial entities.  the university is adding commercial space, a hotel, student housing and classroom space.  it hopes to bring some of the companies its students do cooperative study with into the neighborhood for both student work experiences and joint research.  It is also opening space up to other universities in the city and around the world.  Drexel will act as a Master planner for this project, but will have many other public and private partners.

30th and Chestnut Before


30th and JFK Before


31st and Market Before