Friday, October 26, 2012

Will Bart Blatstein's casino, "The Provence," ever get built?

The Provence | North Broad St | Philadelphia

"Wow."

"Seriously?"

"Vegas in North Philly."

"Expansive and expensive."

"The best entertainment resort in the country."

Look at it any which way you want, because everyone has their own opinion on Philadelphia's second casino proposal from Bart Blatstein at Tower Investments.

If you're a regular reader, you know that I like to break down new developments for easier reading. I mean, who really has time to read a 3 page newspaper article these days?

Here we go:

  • $700 Million resort/casino complex
  • 650,000 sq ft that would stretch multiple city blocks
  • 60,000 sq ft roof-top shopping area (with a French inspired theme; hence, Provence)
  • 125 room hotel (in the old Inquirer building)
  • 3,300 slot machines and 150 table games
  • Private swim club
  • Comedy club
  • Jazz club
  • Theater, spa/fitness center, nightclubs, restaurants, and much more

Whew.

Here's my opinion on the subject. This is one hugely, intense project, but I have a feeling that Bart will get it built.

For a few reasons:

  1. He is a proven Philadelphia developer.
  2. Tower Investments has already built stable, neighborhood-changing projects that are standing the test of time (i.e. Avenue North, The Piazza at Schmidt's, etc.).
  3. It's a significant investment in our city (monetarily), it will create lots of temporary and permanent jobs, and tons of tax revenue. Not only from the casino, but from the adjoining businesses as well.
  4. The launch party was a huge success for both interested parties and city politicians.

Personally, I go back and forth with the whole "big city, legal gambling" debate. I think casinos can work if done correctly and not overexposed. In places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the main draw is gambling and overexposure is rampant. I know that Vegas has transformed their legal gambling status into more of a shopping/dining/nightlife industry, but gambling is still the main feature and what the city was founded upon. AC has a ways to go, but they are starting to see the light.

For Philadelphia, 2 casinos would probably work. To date, Sugarhouse has not caused nearly as many problems as naysayers thought it would (i.e. traffic issues, out-of-control crime, bad for the waterfront, etc.). More cars are driving into the city to gamble, there have been some petty crimes, and it may not be the ideal business for the rapidly developing Delaware River Waterfront, but so far it's working out as well as it can be. Plus, it's creating revenue for the city.

I think a project of this magnitude can work for many reasons:

  1. It's being built in an area that is just beginning to experience smart growth.
  2. It's close to Center City, the PA Convention Center, and Public Transportation.
  3. It has unique features that would separate it from the typical casino (e.g. boutique hotel in a historic building, rooftop shopping with skyline views, private swim club, etc.). Plus, it has the backing of one of the best casino operators in the world (Hard Rock International).

At the end of the day, I believe this project works. Will it be built? Not sure yet. Will it look exactly as it does in the renderings? Probably not, as changes will be suggested/made along the way (especially from city planners and neighbors). Will it be a problem for the city and cause an abundance of Philadelphians to develop gambling problems? Absolutely not, because we already have Sugarhouse, Parx, Harrah's, and Atlantic City (gambling is not a new concept to us).

I say build it, bring in new businesses, expand on what North Broad St already has going for it, close the gap between City Hall and Temple, keep the aligning residential neighborhoods growing (e.g. Fairmount, Brewerytown, Spring Arts/Chinatown North/Loft District, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Old Kensington, etc.), and let Bart build the biggest, most successful project of his life.

He's done it before, and has made Philadelphia a better and more well-known city because of it.

Helpful Links:

Say Bonjour to The Provence

Blatstein Foresees 5,000 Jobs

Casino Renderings and Party Pics

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs?

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