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. ••