Blatstein unveils plans for French-themed casino on Broad

Artist's rendering of the proposed casino complex at the former home of the Daily News and Inquirer.
Artist's rendering of the proposed casino complex at the former home of the Daily News and Inquirer.
Posted: October 26, 2012

THE FORMALITIES were over. In a nightclub-like setting, developer Bart Blatstein had presented drawings for the proposed Provence Casino on North Broad Street to be managed by Hard Rock International. Now he found his friend, developer Eric Blumenfeld, and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

"This is my little brother," Blatstein told the Daily News at a launch party unveiling the casino plans.

"He's a visionary," Blatstein said of Blumenfeld, who has developed apartment buildings and restaurants on North Broad and who recently acquired the Divine Lorraine Hotel and a partnership in the Metropolitan Opera House.

"Between what he's doing north of Spring Garden and what I'm doing south of Spring Garden, together we are creating an economic-development stimulus plan on North Broad Street."

Blatstein had just outlined plans for a $700 million casino and resort-hotel complex at the building at Broad at Callowhill streets that until July was home to the Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com.

The casino would be on the site of what is now a parking lot between 15th and 16th streets on Callowhill. A 125-room hotel would go inside the iconic office tower on Broad. Hard Rock International has signed on to manage the casino, Blatstein said. The complex also would include a jazz club, a comedy club, a theater, a spa and a swim club.

Blatstein said that he picked the theme of Provence in southern France because Philadelphia has several other French-inspired architectural features from City Hall to the Ben Franklin Parkway, which has often been compared to the Champs-Elysees, a street in Paris.

Blatstein announced detailed plans for the casino at a party in Northern Liberties near one of his other major developments, the Piazza at Schmidts.

He is among a handful of developers believed to be planning a casino to go along with the city's first casino, SugarHouse, which opened in 2010 on Delaware Avenue. All must apply for a casino license with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board by Nov. 15.

At Wednesday's launch, City Council President Darrell Clarke took the stage at Tendenza at the Piazza and opened his remarks with: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

He said he wasn't supposed to announce his support for any specific casino plan, "wink, wink." Then he winked on stage.

Before the night was over, the group Casino-Free Philadelphia was bashing the plan.

"Casinos profit from gambling addiction," board member Dan Hajdo said in a news release. " ... [C]asinos are never the road to economic development. Never have been, never will be."

Veronica Joyner, founder of the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, said a casino would be a bad influence on nearby schools..

"I think a casino will attract crime, traffic and prostitution," Joyner said. "There are laws that say you can't have a casino so many feet away from a school."


Contact Valerie Russ at russv@phillynews.com or 215-854-5987. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.

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