Afternoon Quick Hits

The tale of a bad neighbor in Germantown’s Penn-Knox section; Wynn Resorts has some designs for the land adjacent to its proposed casino, and maybe even designs on them; Lawsuits may have SLAPPed the Old City Civic Association out of existence, and the state senator representing the neighborhood wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again; and while we offered one take on New York interlopers elsewhere today, Curbed Philly has a more personal one, the chronicle of a former Brooklynite and the happy ending to her “Nightmare on Amber Street”:

L&I cleans up Germantown spite-blight property for the 11th time (Plan Philly|Newsworks)
Wynn hopes to use casino license as boost for Fishtown (The Philadelphia Inquirer|Philly.com)
Farnese calls for hearings on SLAPP legislation (Plan Philly)
What Is It Really Like to Buy a $70K Fixer-Upper? (Curbed Philly)

Lunchtime Quick Hits

People move all the time in search of better locations to live. And every so often, so do houses; the region’s greenway/bikeway network gets a little better connected with the completion of key links in Camden; after neighbors complained that it wasn’t Victorian enough, a developer tweaks a proposed mixed-use building on Cedar Park’s Baltimore Avenue corridor, much to their delight; and the Delaware waterfront’s design advocates offer suggestions to Steve Wynn for ways to make his proposed casino play nicer with the river and its neighbors:

Buildings On The Move: A Survey of Building Relocations (Hidden City Daily)
On the Ground redux: newly completed Camden trails add amenities, connect to larger system (Flying Kite)
Mixed-Use Building Will Soon Replace Vacant Lot on Baltimore Ave. (Naked Philly)
CDAG to Gaming Board: Changes would make Wynn a better waterfront fit (Plan Philly)

Recent developments on the casino front

Wynn Philadelphia architect's rendering
Wynn Resorts’ Everett, Mass., casino proposal won big with voters there, offering futher proof of the Wynn team’s community-outreach prowess, displayed here in Fishtown…

The public comment period is over, and the fate of the six applicants for Philadelphia’s second casino license rests squarely in the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s hands. But that doesn’t mean that all is quiet on the casino front; the six bidders continue to make moves designed to put their projects in the best possible light while the board mulls everything over. We have some news to report on two of the proposals.

One comes from Everett, Mass., where 86 percent of residents voted in favor of Wynn Resorts’ casino proposal for that city. (A public referendum is part of Massachusetts’ requirements for a casino license.) The vote is a testament to the effectiveness of the Wynn team’s community outreach efforts, which met with similar success in Fishtown when Wynn representatives met with the Fishtown Neighbors Association to sell the community on the benefits of the proposed Wynn Philadelphia casino. Wynn Resorts Development President and Chief Operating Officer Gamal Aziz made the connection explicit in a statement issued after the vote:

“We believe the widespread support we experienced in Everett further validates the strength of our company’s ability to develop unique resorts in urban locations – including Philadelphia.  As a global company, we have the financial capacity, human resource talent and the focus to move forward with multiple projects in cities around the world.   Our success in simultaneously opening both Wynn Encore in Las Vegas and Wynn Macau in China demonstrates our company’s unique ability to develop multiple luxury resorts.  Based on timing and the approval process in Pennsylvania, it is our hope that Wynn Philadelphia will be the first showpiece in our Urban Wynn story.”

Rendering of Market8 casino
…while the local development team behind the Market8 proposal offered to chip in $1 million annually to keep Center City’s Main Street looking spiffy.

The other comes from 8th and Market streets, where the team behind the Market8 casino proposal added a sweetener to its license bid with a commitment to contribute $1 million annually towards the improvement of Market Street East should it win the license. Ken Goldenberg, founder, president and CEO of The Goldenberg Group, Market8′s lead developer, told Philly.com, ”Market8 will dedicate a portion of our profits every year to make a tangible, lasting impact on one of the most critical commercial corridors in the city.”

Architects’ renderings from presentations before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Wynn resort proposal wins over Fishtown Neighbors Association

Wynn FNA presentation
Terry McKenna of Keating Construction (left) and Annie Allman of Wynn Resorts (right) fill Fishtowners in on Wynn’s proposal for a casino resort complex on the Delaware riverfront where Fishtown and Port Richmond meet.

On Monday, April 8, at the First Presbyterian Church in Fishtown, representatives from Wynn Resorts presented the proposed plan for their casino/resort on the Delaware waterfront as Wynn tries to win the remaining casino license in the city. The Fishtown Neighbors Association hosted the presentation. Wynn’s team has previously reached out for community support with a similar town-hall meeting in Port Richmond.

Wynn Philadelphia
Architect’s rendering of the proposed Wynn Philadelphia casino resort

The 60-acre area, located along Interstate 95 near the Girard Avenue interchange between Cumberland and Beech streets, had been used for light industrial work in past years; Wynn’s team seemed confident they would be able to use the land for a better purpose. Along with creation of jobs, the presentation focused on providing locals public access to non-gambling amenities along the Delaware River.

Riverwalk
Fishtown residents especially liked the Riverwalk, the proposed public access component of the development.

The 22-acre Riverwalk would create a waterfront area seven times larger than Penn’s Landing. Current plans include an ice skating rink, dog park, bike rental, and amphitheatre. By keeping this space public, Wynn’s team feels they are enhancing the riverfront as well as providing to the community.

As for employment, Wynn’s team projected they will create 3,600 construction jobs over the two- to three-year project period. Once open, they expect to create 2,200 permanent jobs along with 1,100 jobs generated with suppliers. And yes, they do plan to work with local unions—put the inflatable rat away. They also stressed that Wynn’s approach in training and providing for its employees creates fewer turnovers.

Annie Allman, representing Wynn, explained the company’s philosophy was not just to create jobs, but to build careers.

The resort itself is modeled after existing Wynn properties. With its Philadelphia outpost, Wynn is trying to do something different from other casinos in the area—it’s not just about gambling. Allman stated the existing casinos in the Philadelphia area are 90 percent gaming, while Wynn’s proposal seeks to create a more integrated experience. Similar to their Las Vegas properties, Wynn’s resort is planned to have 60 percent non-gaming amenities and only 40 percent gaming. By not being just a full-on casino, Wynn Philadelphia will be able to attract a different crowd than Harrah’s and Sugar House. Terry McKenna, executive vice president of Keating Consulting, LLC, stated Wynn intends to make all non-gambling amenities accessible without even stepping foot on the casino floor.

One local criticized the look of the tower portion of the casino, but the focus on the property is to bring plenty of green space. The tower at the center of the proposed property will be 19 stories tall and contain 300 hotel rooms with an average 900 square feet per room. The property will also have 2,800 parking spots and will be free for those using the public Riverwalk along with the resort. That is a lot of asphalt for a green space.

While the idea of dropping a casino in one’s backyard isn’t anyone’s dream, the casino does provide a lot for the area. But the bigger issue is whether this nearly billion-dollar ($925 million, to be specific) project will become a part of the community. One resident voiced her concern, and McKenna sternly responded that Philadelphia deserves better. He argued that if one of the city’s goals is to energize the waterfront, this project would be ideal. Instead of not using the land and only creating maybe 250 jobs, the resort would be a key component to the revitalization of the waterfront. Other residents voiced concerns about the audience Wynn attracts; will locals be able to afford to go to this high-end resort in their back yard? This concern was a bit confusing, knowing the cost of homes in the area, which are not exactly cheap.  Wynn’s team rebutted by reiterating the potential usage of the public access to the property and the Riverwalk.

Philadelphia isn’t the only spot Wynn has its eye on. The company is also currently proposing a project in Everett, Mass. The two proposals have the same urban concepts. Everett is geographically similar to Fishtown as well as being a working-class community. If Wynn gets both licenses, Allman stated the company would not choose between cities, but go forward with both resorts if selected.  McKenna explained the budget for the project would not depend on the city or increases in taxes. He confidently said they could write the check tomorrow.

As said before, no one wants to wake up to a casino in their backyard, but many attendees were glad someone was interested in bringing tax revenue to the area and cleaning up the proposed property, which has become contaminated, polluted, and unkept in the past few decades.

In the end, Wynn did win. Locals voted in favor of the proposed plan 173 to 55.  The next steps for Wynn’s team are public input hearings, which will be held April 11-12 and May 8. Individual applicant license hearings will take place in October and November and the license will awarded in December or early 2014.

Lunchtime Quick Hits

The Penn Alexander School has proven to be a boon for the University City real estate market as well – but it’s also triggered a demographic shift that has left many of the children who could once take advantage of it out in the cold. A Penn researcher asks, Can its success be replicated elsewhere?; Bart Blatstein buys on Rittenhouse Square – but don’t expect Tower Investments to carve this one into condos or apartments; “Yo, Steve Wynn! Where’s the addytood in your casino proposal?” the Central Delaware Advocacy Group asks; and Inga Saffron examines the DNA of Glaxo’s radical new Navy Yard headquarters design and finds copies of downtown’s genes bound up in its office-park strands:

Can the success of Penn Alexander be replicated? (Philadelphia Public School Notebook)
McIlhenny Mansion Sold – to Bart Blatstein (Hidden City Philadelphia)
CDAG to Wynn: Put more Philly in your casino proposal (Plan Philly)
Changing Skyline: Glaxo’s new building has big implications (The Philadelphia Inquirer|Philly.com)