ORCA says yes to Wynn development

Neigh­bors who at­ten­ded a meet­ing of the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation voted to sup­port the pro­posed Wynn Phil­adelphia casino on the Delaware River.

An artist’s ren­der­ing of Steve Wynn’s pro­posed Fishtown casino and hotel. COUR­TESY OF WYNN RE­SORTS, LTD.

At the Ju­ly 29 meet­ing of the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation, more than 200 res­id­ents is­sued their votes on casino de­veloper Steve Wynn’s pro­posed casino and re­sort ap­plic­a­tion. 

Wynn is com­pet­ing with five oth­er de­velopers for the second casino li­cense in the city. The casino would be loc­ated at the former Wil­li­am Cramp & Sons shipyard on the Delaware River wa­ter­front in Fishtown, on land north of the Sug­ar­House Casino.

Res­id­ents voted 191-20 in sup­port of the 60-acre wa­ter­front re­sort, after a present­a­tion and ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion led by the Wynn Phil­adelphia pro­ject team. 

The meet­ing took place at the former Dou­glass School, 2700 E. Hunt­ing­ton St. The school build­ing will now be used by the Mari­time Academy Charter High School for its high school stu­dents. ORCA’s bound­ar­ies are im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the bound­ar­ies of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation.

Shar­on Mor­gan, who sits on the ORCA board and helped or­gan­ize the meet­ing, told Star on the phone Monday that the biggest is­sue res­id­ents had was with the design of the pro­posed casino build­ing. 

Chris­toph­er Saw­yer, au­thor of the blog Phil­ade­lin­quency.com and neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent, wrote on Ju­ly 30 that the design of the pro­posed Wynn casino is the low­est-rated of all six-casino pro­pos­als, ac­cord­ing to the Design Ad­vocacy Group. Part of that rat­ing, Saw­yer wrote, is due to the “ocean of park­ing that swal­lows up much of the sur­face area of the site.” 

It seems the design team is tak­ing res­id­ents’ con­cerns in­to ac­count.

“Last night the first signs that Keat­ing and Wynn might fi­nally con­sider tak­ing a fresh look at their plans were dropped on the crowd: [The Wynn team said] ‘There’s some ‘wiggle room’ to change things,’” Saw­yer wrote.

Mor­gan said she be­lieves most people liv­ing in the ORCA bound­ar­ies are glad to find out a de­vel­op­ment could take up the empty space in that part of the River Wards. 

“[The Wynn team] came right out and said that [the pro­pos­al in­cludes] 20 acres of green space,” Mor­gan said. “I think that’s won­der­ful, you can take chil­dren there, there’s a nice walk­way.”

Mi­chael Cun­ning­ham, who at­ten­ded the meet­ing, said in an email to Star that Olde Rich­mond res­id­ents’ ques­tions per­tained to ac­cess to jobs and op­por­tun­it­ies for loc­al busi­nesses to be vendors. 

“People in at­tend­ance re­acted pos­it­ively to as­sur­ances that the wa­ter­front park would gen­er­ally be open and ac­cess­ible to the pub­lic dur­ing the day and on hol­i­days such as Ju­ly 4,” Cun­ning­ham said. 

A con­cern that Olde Rich­mond res­id­ents had, Cun­ning­ham con­tin­ued, in­cluded that a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the site is de­voted to park­ing. 

Wynn’s team, however, did note that it was sup­port­ive of the Com­munity Be­ne­fits Agree­ment mod­el that was util­ized by Sug­ar­House Casino. That agree­ment is the Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices dis­trict, with dis­burses grants to loc­al pro­grams and pro­jects with funds provided by Sug­ar­House.  The amount of funds that might be made avail­able to com­munity groups, however, was un­clear.  

“On be­half of the en­tire Wynn Phil­adelphia team, we sin­cerely thank the res­id­ents and ORCA for this en­dorse­ment of our re­sort ap­plic­a­tion,” said Terry McK­enna, ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent of Keat­ing Con­sult­ing, which is as­sist­ing Wynn Re­sorts on the pro­ject, in a press re­lease. 

In April, Fishtown res­id­ents voted 173-55 in sup­port of the Wynn pro­pos­al for the Delaware wa­ter­front dur­ing the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation (FNA) meet­ing.

In total, the Wynn Phil­adelphia re­sort pro­pos­al has re­ceived pos­it­ive en­dorse­ments from the fol­low­ing com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions: Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation, and Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic.

Part of the reas­on, per­haps, for ORCA’s vote of con­fid­ence in Wynn’s plan: it could cur­rently-un­avail­able privately-man­aged pub­lic space to the neigh­bor­hood.

Saw­yer wrote: “If Wynn gets the li­cense, Wynn’s back­yard will sud­denly be­come the pub­lic square for the Olde Rich­mond neigh­bor­hood.  Cum­ber­land Street is the only ped­es­tri­an con­nec­tion link­ing row house neigh­bor­hoods dir­ectly to the Wynn prop­erty.” 

“For a neigh­bor­hood that can’t ever agree on what to call it­self, sud­denly hav­ing a sig­na­ture ‘Wynn’ name-plated tour­ist at­trac­tion with a ped­es­tri­an con­nect­or to a coveted wa­ter­front park on the Delaware River is cer­tainly a change that piques in­terest to park-starved res­id­ents,” Saw­yer con­tin­ued. ••

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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