Representatives from the casino mogul’s project promised jobs, green space and a community benefits agreement similar to SugarHouse’s Penn Treaty Special Services District.
On Thursday night, a team representing Las Vegas casino and hotel mogul Steve Wynn met with River Wards residents at a public meeting of the Port Richmond Community Group.
More than 40 neighbors living near the unused Delaware riverfront lot where Wynn has proposed building a 19-story hotel and casino asked their most urgent questions, which focused on community benefits, local employment, and park space alongside the casino.
“It’s a huge opportunity to create jobs,” said Terrence McKenna, executive vice president of Keating Consulting, LLC, who led the presentation.
McKenna said the project will create 3,600 construction jobs, which he said would go to local union laborers. Documents supplied by Wynn Resorts state that 2,200 permanent jobs are expected to be created at the permanent site, with another 1,100 indirect supplier jobs.
Wynn is one of six developers contending for the second casino license in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expected to make its decision on which developer will be approved within several months.
Theresa Costello and Dot Jacob, who lead PRCG, invited Wynn Resorts to present to the community. Costello pointed out that the project’s location is near the Port Richmond Thriftway Market, 2497 Aramingo Ave., and that it could arguably be called part of Port Richmond.
The Wynn project would fill 70 acres along Richmond Street from Schirra Drive to Columbia Avenue. The Port Richmond Thriftway Market is about a half mile away from the Schirra Drive edge of the proposed casino location.
“Grouping these two casinos together is better than having them on separate sides of town,” McKenna said.
McKenna also said that the site, which amounts to about 60 to 70 acres, will have 30 to 35 acres devoted to the hotel casino, with the rest for a “spectacular landscaped park that neighbors can use.”
“This property has been closed off to the public since 1825,” McKenna said. “Wynn Resorts will open it up.”
Neighbors asked directly whether Wynn Resorts would enter into a community benefits agreement, similar to the Penn Treaty Special Services District arrangement with SugarHouse Casino.
SugarHouse funds the PTSSD, a group that since January 2010 has received three annual payments totaling $1,175,000 from the casino to disburse to local programs and projects in neighborhoods within its boundaries — Fishtown, Northern Liberties, South Kensington and Old Richmond.
McKenna said that Wynn would enter into some community benefit arrangement, although the exact nature of that arrangement is not certain.
“Wynn understands that whole premise and we’re very supportive of it, if that’s the model the community wants to use,” McKenna said.
McKenna also pointed out that Wynn’s projected $900 million budget, coupled with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s $1 billion budget to improve the I-95 highway, adds up to $2 billion in improvements slated for I-95 access near the location.
The current design is “not impacting any of those neighborhoods to the north or to the west,” McKenna said.
State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) attended the hearing and spoke briefly to attendees, saying he is “excited” by Wynn’s proposal.
“If this was a proposal six-seven years ago, you would be skeptical, I would be skeptical, we would look at it with a microscope,” Rep. Taylor said. “The difference from 2006 … to 2013 is we have a terribly dire need for jobs.”
Taylor also said that predictions of “terrible things that would happen in Port Richmond” during the SugarHouse construction never materialized.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has materials from the Wynn Philadelphia application and video of Wynn’s February presentation available to the public.
For more information on Wynn Philadelphia and other proposed casinos for Philadelphia, visit gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.