Panel: Casinos‘ plans ‚incompatible‘ with city’s

A group of architectural and traffic experts last night concluded that plans for two proposed riverfront casinos are not compatible with the city’s long-term plan to redevelop the banks of the Delaware River.

That comes as little surprise to the casino developers, who refused to participate in the discussion, run by the academic group PennPraxis, because they considered the outcome preordained.

The experts did not reject outright the notion of riverfront casinos, though. Instead, they sought to balance how the projects could contribute to a vibrant riverfront.

„There’s a lot of good reasons why a casino would work in the waterfront,“ said architectural designer Tim Magill of Hollywood, Calif.

The experts focused part of their discussion on the casino parking garages, large boxy structures blocking views of the river. Landscape architect Jose Alminana of Philadelphia suggested off-site parking for the casinos that could be used by others visiting the waterfront. That idea was widely expected to be opposed by the casino developers, who for now are not required to follow any PennPraxis conclusions.

The PennPraxis panel will meet again today and tomorrow to define what casinos and other large developments must do to be considered „contributing members of the waterfront community.“ Among issues to be examined are traffic, transportation, ecology and sustainability.

Casino opponents are pushing to have the projects – Foxwoods in South Philly and SugarHouse in Fishtown – moved to new locations. But relocation is not part of the PennPraxis discussions.

The panel hopes to pull together its recommendations in a report to Mayor Nutter within two weeks. Nutter called for the casino study last month while embracing the PennPraxis plan to redevelop the Delaware riverfront.

Nutter declared that the casinos „as currently designed simply don’t fit“ in the plan.

Along with Magill and Alminana, the panel of experts also includes traffic engineers Walter Kulash from Orlando, Fla. and Daniel Plottner from New York along with architect Peter Steinbrueck, a former Seattle, Wash. city councilman.

Alminana and Steinbrueck helped develop the PennPraxis riverfront plan. Three panel members also have casino experience. Magill helped design a casino in Cabazon, Calif. Alminana’s firm is working on the design for a Caribbean casino. Plottner has played in several Texas Hold ‚Em Poker tournaments.