Wynn’s Fishtown casino: the River Wards’ reaction

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

Fol­low­ing Steve Wynn’s de­tailed present­a­tion of his pro­posed Fishtown hotel and casino, neigh­bors and com­munity group rep­res­ent­at­ives have mixed re­ac­tions to the pro­ject that could bring yet an­oth­er gambling des­tin­a­tion to the com­munit­ies’ wa­ter­front.

Last week, Las Ve­gas casino own­er Steve Wynn presen­ted his plans for a $900 mil­lion casino and hotel dubbed “Wynn Phil­adelphia” on the Delaware River wa­ter­front in Fishtown, on land north of the Sug­ar­House Casino.

He joined five oth­er de­velopers lin­ing up for a chance at se­cur­ing the city’s second casino li­cense in present­ing pitches to the Pennsylvania Gam­ing Con­trol Board at the Pennsylvania Con­ven­tion Cen­ter dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on Feb. 12.

“This is a bil­lion-dol­lar de­vel­op­ment for Phil­adelphia … and he has the money to do it,” A.J. Thom­son, pres­id­ent of the Friends of Penn Treaty Park said of Wynn’s pro­pos­al last week.

“I think it’s cool,” said Mary­ann Trombetta, pres­id­ent of the Port Rich­mond Town Watch, who was also in at­tend­ance.  “I think he’s the only one who speaks from the heart.”

Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work group fa­cil­it­at­or Mi­chael Black­ie said Wynn’s casino pro­pos­al is a good thing.

“I see what Sug­ar­House has done with the com­munity be­ne­fits agree­ment [the Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict, which dis­burses grants to loc­al pro­grams and pro­jects with funds provided by Sug­ar­House] and that’s good for the com­munity. This area would need it.”

Black­ie men­tioned in­creased traffic and real es­tate in­vest­ments as po­ten­tial eco­nom­ic boost­ers the casino could bring to Port Rich­mond.

Theresa Cos­tello of the Port Rich­mond Com­munity Group said, “I am ex­cited about the Wynn hotel and casino pro­ject be­cause it could really spur de­vel­op­ment along the wa­ter­front. This is the largest piece of land with the most ex­per­i­enced op­er­at­or [of the six de­velopers’ present­a­tions]. Steve Wynn knows how to bring tour­ism, busi­ness and res­id­ents to our area. Port Rich­mond would be­ne­fit.”

But not all neigh­bors think Wynn’s pro­pos­al has hit the jack­pot.

FACT (Fishtown Ac­tion)’s board does not sup­port an­oth­er casino in Fishtown or Phil­adelphia, said its pres­id­ent, Mag­gie O’Bri­en, though it was sup­port­ive of Fishtown’s Sug­ar­House casino, which holds the city’s first casino li­cense, dur­ing early battles over zon­ing for its con­struc­tion.

“This is not Las Ve­gas. We do not want to turn this in­to Las Ve­gas,” O’Bri­en said. “We have to pro­tect the in­teg­rity of the neigh­bor­hood.”

Phil­lip Stoltz­fus, pres­id­ent of the Old Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation, said that ORCA does not en­dorse or op­pose in­di­vidu­al de­vel­op­ment pro­jects, but rather acts as a fa­cil­it­at­or to gath­er con­sensus from its con­stitu­ents and com­mu­nic­ate with the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­it­ies.

In shar­ing his per­son­al views, not those of ORCA’s, Stoltz­fus did say he has some re­ser­va­tions.

“Speak­ing as a res­id­ent who lives with­in a stone’s throw of the pro­posed casino site,” he said,  “I have ser­i­ous con­cerns about the im­pact on the res­id­en­tial neigh­bor­hood which is less than 500 feet away.”

The Wynn pro­ject would fill 70 acres along Rich­mond Street from Schirra Drive to Columbia Av­en­ue.

Stoltz­fus also poin­ted out that there are no casi­nos in­cluded in the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Cor­por­a­tion’s Plan for the Cent­ral Delaware, (plan­cent­raldelaware.com), the res­ult of a three-year col­lab­or­a­tion between the city and com­munity on how to re­new the wa­ter­front.

The Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation and the East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation de­clined to com­ment on Wynn’s casino pro­pos­al be­fore the groups hold mem­ber­ship meet­ings to dis­cuss and vote on the is­sue.

Larry Freed­man of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation’s zon­ing com­mit­tee offered no com­ment, and the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion could not be con­tac­ted by press time.

But Wynn may have spoken to some neigh­bors’ con­cerns when he told at­tendees that for any loc­al busi­ness­man, “If I build next to him, his busi­ness goes up.”

Wynn Phil­adelphia is planned as a des­tin­a­tion re­sort, which Wynn de­scribed dur­ing his present­a­tion as po­ten­tially be­com­ing “the nicest hotel on the East Coast,” cit­ing Amtrak trains as key to lur­ing in cus­tom­ers and guests from oth­er cit­ies.

The Wynn casino would boast slot ma­chines, poker tables, lux­ury suites, and a 2,000-foot river­front green space as well, where he said fam­il­ies could stroll in­de­pend­ently of the gambling space without get­ting “any­where near a slot ma­chine.”

A video shown dur­ing the present­a­tion in­cluded im­ages of 900-square-foot suites in the 300-room re­sort, as well as oth­er suc­cess­ful Wynn hotel and casino de­vel­op­ments, like the Wynn Ma­cau in China.

Ad­dress­ing the crowd, Wynn prom­ised a lux­ury hotel with gambling tables and fine cuisine, not “just slot ma­chines,” he said.

Wynn said that fin­an­cially he is ready to break ground im­me­di­ately on build­ing Wynn Phil­adelphia, with his $2 bil­lion cash re­serve avail­able to fund the pro­ject. He prom­ised that the pro­ject would cre­ate jobs in the area, spur loc­al busi­ness growth, and draw vis­it­ors to all of Phil­adelphia. The audi­ence ap­plauded his present­a­tion.

The Pennsylvania Gam­ing Con­trol Board will award one de­veloper a casino li­cense after sev­er­al months, pos­sibly not un­til the fall, ac­cord­ing to sources fa­mil­i­ar with the pro­cess.
Pub­lic hear­ings on the six pro­pos­als will be held April 10 and 11 at the Pennsylvania Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

Ad­di­tion­al re­port­ing by Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on, who can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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