Chinatown wants Foxwoods details, but few may surface tonight

Posted: October 09, 2008

The Chinatown community, gearing up to fight a proposed casino at the Gallery, faces its first challenge - getting details about the project.

Mayor Nutter this week said his top advisers on casinos and city planning will attend a Chinatown meeting tonight mostly to listen to concerns about Foxwoods, which was initially approved by the state in December 2006 for a South Philly location.

Foxwoods said this week that it may not be able to show anyone what a casino at its new proposed site at the Gallery would look like until mid-December. And the city still hasn't released a timeline for how it will review and possibly approve the move.

The lack of information is stirring community frustration.

Foxwoods investors told Gov. Rendell eight weeks ago that they would consider the move after 18 months of battles with the city and community groups about the South Philly site. The investors announced four weeks ago that they were focusing on the Gallery, at 11th and Market streets. Nutter, who had pushed for Foxwoods to find a new location, says he is "favorable" to the Gallery idea.

"This is still in the idea stage," Nutter added. "I don't have a drawing. I don't have a sketch. I don't have anything on the back of a napkin to show what this would look like."

Andy Toy, chairman of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., was surprised this week to hear that no detailed drawings would be shown at tonight's meeting. At a meeting last week of the organization, residents and business owners said they needed information.

"We were hoping they have more than just the same cursory, broad overview of it," Toy said about tonight's meeting. "There's so much information that's required for people to digest."

A Foxwoods executive, quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer story yesterday, said the casino may have plans in nine or 10 weeks and predicted it could be open by December 2009.

"I don't think it's appropriate for Foxwoods to be boasting in public meetings that they will be open in a year's time," said Helen Gym, a board member of Asian Americans United. "It makes it sound like City Hall and the Mayor's Office and the Planning Commission are rubber stamps."

Gym's group has been circulating petitions labeled "No Casino in Chinatown!!! Get the Facts!!!"

Foxwoods' president and chief operating officer, Jim Dougherty, is expected to attend tonight's meeting. Dougherty has plenty of experience with angry residents and business owners after weathering several City Council hearings about the South Philly site.

While Foxwoods considers relocation, a casino proposed for the Delaware riverfront in Fishtown is refusing to move. SugarHouse got a boost this week from the state Supreme Court, which again said the casino has a legitimate lease on 11 acres of state-owned riverfront.

Nutter, who still wants SugarHouse to find a new location, has agreed to consider a redesign of the casino's plans for Fishtown.

"Would I like them to move? Yes," Nutter said. "Are they going to move? I don't know."

Tonight's meeting is at 7 at Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church at 915 Vine St. *

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