From his barbershop at Seventh and Bigler Streets, Darin Capo has seen all the concrete giants rise - the Wells Fargo Center in 1996, Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, Citizens Bank Park in 2004 - and worried how each would affect the neighborhood.
When a customer stopped by Tuesday to say a new neighbor, a $425 million casino, had just gotten the go-ahead to move in, Capo was struck with déjà vu. But also with hope - that it would be good for business despite the mixed response from the men who sit in his barber's chair.
"They say, 'Yes, it will bring jobs,' " Capo said in the shop his father, Don, opened in 1967, where pictures of Frank Sinatra and sports pennants mingle on the walls. "They say, 'No, it's going to bring a mess; you're going to have lowlifes around here.' "
South Philadelphia residents were already deeply divided over the possibility of a casino's arrival when the neighborhood was just one of several locations being considered by the state's Gaming Control Board. Hundreds of people packed a neighborhood meeting last Wednesday night in a local parish hall, where the heated debate boiled down to a simple disagreement: jobs vs. quality of life.
That split is sure to intensify now that the board, in a Tuesday announcement, awarded the city's second casino license to Live! Hotel & Casino, whose backers plan to build a 200,000-square-foot edifice at Darien Street and Packer Avenue, now the site of a Holiday Inn.
Mayor Nutter applauded the decision, saying the casino construction project would bring "thousands of much-needed construction and permanent jobs" to the city.
Several other elected officials offered measured responses, including City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose district includes the proposed site. He called the board's vote the beginning of a conversation, not the end, and said if public opinion is against the casino, he will "join in opposition."
For those long opposed to the Live! plan - or any new casino in the city, for that matter - the decision only galvanized their resistance.
"It's going to be a fight," said Helen Gym, executive director of Asian Americans United and an activist on education matters in Philadelphia. "We're trying to show that there can be a different vision of the city other than just gambling halls and defunding schools."
Barbara Capozzi, a local real estate agent and community activist who helped organize last week's neighborhood meeting, said she was exploring every option to block the casino.
"It is impossible to plan your life already around events here," Capozzi said. "We have to keep calendars of all the games and other events so we can plan our christenings, our family events. ... At least after an Eagles game, we know things will eventually quiet down. With a casino, you don't know how late things will go. We won't ever be able to anticipate a quiet evening."
Marie Collachi, who along with her daughter was walking her grandchildren home from school on Oregon Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, said she hadn't followed the debate as closely as some of her neighbors. But she didn't need long to take a side.
"Where there's money, there's crime," Collachi said, her eyes wide.
Her daughter, Rachel Lister, nodded.
"More crime. More robberies," she said, shuffling her feet to keep warm.
Down the street, another mother hoped a casino would bring something else: employment opportunities. As she left a diner on Oregon Avenue, about a mile from the casino site, Christina Hall said she understood others' fears but thinks the potential benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
"Hopefully, with businesses and things coming to the area to keep our community busy, we won't have as much crime," she said, her 13-year-old daughter Calina beside her. "I would like to think that it would bring jobs to the area before crime."
At the Fireside Tavern, a half-mile from the stadiums, bartender Rick Beckstrand said he saw only positives from the plan - the first being that more visitors might grab a drink at his bar.
As for concerns that the casino would cut into the business of other establishments - such as SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, or Harrah's in Chester - competition isn't always a bad thing, he said.
"Look at Pat's and Geno's," Beckstrand said. "Two steak shops on the same corner. They both make money."
On Darien Street, on a one-way stretch separated from the casino site by I-76, a woman rushing from her car to her home said she saw how starkly divided her neighbors were at last week's meeting. It made her so upset that she feared people who disagree with her would make trouble for her and her mother - so she only wanted to give her first name, Sue.
Between the stadiums, the Xfinity Live! complex, and scores of shopping plazas that line both sides of nearby I-95, she said, her community was already bearing its share of development headaches.
"Why do we have all this here? And they want a casino here?" she asked. "How much do they think they're going to cram into here?"