This philly inquirer story that just broke seems like great news, but of course with these casinos, the devil is in the details. I opposed the two waterfront casino proposals, partly because the idea of gambling in Philadelphia was so transparently conceived as a way to scrape up some revenue and nothing else, and partly because the proposals were both junk for the city. For urbanists, this is now well accepted, but insular car oriented developments are always dead spots. They're the ugly, uninteresting and dangerous. Think Pier 70. Think Dockside. Think the paperboard condos up by the Sugarhouse site. I go to these places when I want to feel bleak and disconnected. It's an ignorant remnant of the twentieth century that big power player developers still try and foist this nonsense on Philadelphia.
Okay, s0 the possibilities that come from this resiting are terrific. I've always had a soft spot for the Gallery. I'm not sure if it was genius or negligent to put a mall over one of the biggest train hubs in the region - frankly it's a little of both. It's actually a good thing to have a mall accessible to center city, I use it and so do a lot of other people. The problem was that as it was developed, the gallery missed opportunities that would have made it great. It's tone deaf as an urban project - no real street presence, and it's got a location that easily would have accommodated much higher density. It could and should have 20 stories of residential or office or both above it.
So I'm hoping that the owners -PREIT and a group of others take this most recent news as an opportunity to do a major reboot of that whole area. I can easily imagine a high end shopping mall with major entertainment infrastructure becoming the seed of a vibrant center city. Face it - right now all the new construction that's happening there is the convention expansion or related to it. And conventions alone won't bring strength to that part of the city.
And maybe Sugarhouse will take this opportunity to stop being wrongheaded and think about locating next to Foxwoods on that big, empty lot. I mean, cities are made for agglomerations.