Planning officials have approved a developer's proposal for the city's second casino, leaving it to City Council members to address concerns about the South Philadelphia project's size and use of outdoor signs.
The city Planning Commission voted Tuesday to approve Stadium Casino L.L.C.'s master plan for the Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia project, contingent on future Council action that would tweak the proposed location's zoning to allow the development in its current form.
Stadium Casino - a partnership of Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, whose properties include Xfinity Live!, and Greenwood Racing Inc., owner of Parx Casino in Bensalem - proposes a $500 million development at 900 Packer Ave. in Philadelphia's stadium district.
Plans call for a 19-story hotel tower attached to a seven-story parking structure, with gaming, dining, and entertainment on the complex's ground floor. The parking structure also would feature a landscaped "green" roof.
Planning Commission members said during the proposal's first public hearing in August that the design had too much digital signage to meet zoning requirements. The developer responded by removing two large digital signs from the proposal.
But even with that change, the design would still not be permitted under the "special purpose entertainment," or SP-ENT, zoning classification that the developer will request for the site from City Council, Martin Gregorski, director of the Planning Commission's development division, said at Tuesday's hearing.
The project also lacks necessary open areas and has too much floor space, Gregorski said.
It will be up to Council to relax the requirements of the SP-ENT classification while considering the rezoning request, he said.
Cordish has said the casino development is expected to take 15 months to complete after it secures final approvals and permits.
The developer has begun seeking those approvals despite a legal challenge by rival groups to the gaming license Stadium Casino was granted in November.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is reviewing briefs in an appeal by the rivals, which allege that Stadium Casino's interest in Parx Casino should have disqualified it from getting another license.
Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger said a decision on the appeal could come as early as this fall.
Live! would be Philadelphia's second gambling venue. SugarHouse Casino opened on the Delaware riverfront in Fishtown in 2010.
The only members of the public to offer testimony at Tuesday's hearing were local representatives of the National Action Network civil-rights group, which urged commission members to investigate allegations of racist practices by Cordish at sites in Kansas City, Mo., and Lexington, Ky.
Greenberger said the Planning Commission does not have the authority or expertise to vet those claims and said they could be examined by the City Council.
Live! project lawyer Richard W. Hayden said the state Gaming Control Board thoroughly vetted Cordish when its license was granted and found no sign of discriminatory practices.