Community coalition won't oppose Blatstein casino plan

Posted: January 24, 2014

A COALITION of community organizations yesterday signed an agreement with Bart Blatstein to not oppose his Provence Casino plan for North Broad Street.

In return, Blatstein's Tower Entertainment pledged to keep the area clean, provide security-van patrols and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into a community-development fund should the Provence win a casino license.

City Council President Darrell Clarke, who represents the district in which the property sits, attended the signing at Blatstein's office at Tower Place Apartments, Broad and Spring Garden streets.

Kevin Greenberg, the lawyer for the North Broad Community Coalition, said other officials were invited but could not attend.

As the Daily News reported Jan. 15, the agreement says Tower Entertainment will pay a community-development fund $350,000 annually for five years and $450,000 a year after that.

All five applicants for the license are to appear before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board next week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

"Tower Entertainment is deeply gratified to have reached this Community Development Agreement with the North Broad Community Coalition so early on in the process," Blatstein said in a statement yesterday.

"Our pledge from the outset was to be a good neighbor and a responsible developer, taking great care to hear and respond to the concerns of our neighbors."

But three organizations in the coalition won a petition to intervene in the licensing process at the suitability hearing next week.

Representatives from Congregation Rodeph Shalom and the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter and Friends Select schools testified at a petition hearing Jan. 8 that they feared a casino in the rapidly developing North Broad neighborhood would bring huge traffic problems and put schoolchildren at risk.

Also yesterday, Market8 Associates, which wants to build a casino at 8th and Market streets, announced that the Washington Square West Civic Association has endorsed the Market8 Casino project.

In a news release, Jonathan Broh, chairman of the group's zoning committee, said: "Market8's numerous restaurants, concert venue and casino will bring much-needed activity to Market Street."

Market8's pledge to invest $1 million annually to make physical improvements around East Market Street persuaded the civic group, he said.

A Market8 spokeswoman said no community agreement had been signed with the civic group.

Paul Boni, a member of the national advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling, said of the Provence deal:

"I think it's a scandal that these casinos would extract hundreds of millions of dollars from these communities annually and that these community-group leaders are too apathetic to protect their communities and would rather grab some money out of the deal."

Sarah McEneaney, of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, said the community realizes that the Gaming Control Board will decide where a casino will go.

"The community stakeholders decided the prudent course was to negotiate a Community Development Agreement that provides protections for the neighborhood and major investment into the neighborhood to ameliorate the impacts of the proposed development," she said.

On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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