Bart Blatstein says that The Provence would be the best candidate for Philadelphia's second casino license. It seems that Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger agrees that the Provence has the most long term potential to spur development. The Provence does have a lot of potential to create change in the Callowhill neighborhood, but would that change be for the better?
1.) Location, location, location: Blatstein says that the Provence's location will be a huge asset for both the casino and for Philly. It's true that the city has been trying to reinvigorate North Broad for a long time, and that having a large tourist attraction might just give the area the boost it needs. It's also true that the Provence would be within walking distance of the Convention Center, and that it would be close to the Broad Street Line. The Flipside: Adding a major tourist attraction to North Broad would also bring tons of traffic to North Broad. Though there might be ways to mitigate congestion, it would likely produce traffic delays.
2.) Past performance: Blatstein points to the success of the Piazza as evidence that he can successfully complete complex, large scale urban development projects. It's true that the Piazza has taken off and added energy to Northern Liberties, and it's true that the Piazza involved many parcels of land and complex development issues. The Flipside: The Piazza cost about $200 million to put together, but the Provence would cost more than three times that. Though the Piazza was a very complex project, the Provence would arguably prove to be much more complex and costly: the casino licensing fee will cost $70 million, all on its own.
3.) Historic Preservation: Blatstein bought the historic Inquirer building with the intention of preserving it and keeping it intact. If the Provence gets the go-ahead, the Inquirer tower will keep many of its distinctive, historic elements, including the globe chandelier in the lobby, and the elevated catwalk that once hung over the press room of the Inquirer (where the paper was printed.) The Flipside: It's true that much of the building would remain intact, but the property would also see some big changes. Blatstein wants to add new construction, and to tie the whole thing together with a faux-French theme, which, as some critics have pointed out, is a little tacky.
4.) Neighborhood Impact: Blatstein says that, for tourists, "It will become that iconic place – when you go to Philadelphia – you go to The Provence. It will be on the bucket list." The plans for the casino also include landscaping improvements to the streets that it fronts, and street level retail. Blatstein says that the goal would be to make Callowhill a walkable neighborhood, and that the Provence's potential impact on the area would be even greater than the Piazza's impact upon Northern Liberties. The Flipside: If anti-casino advocates are to be believed, the Provence might bring all kinds of social ills to an already struggling neighborhood. Though it's worth taking their claims with a grain of salt, it does seem likely that a large casino complex would draw many of the problems associated with gambling establishments, and that it would put pressure on local businesses.
· All Posts About The Provence [Curbed Philly]
· Blatstein: The Provence Has Best Location, is Most Transformative [Plan Philly]