Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Synagogue, schools join against Blatstein's proposed casino

PHILADELPHIA A synagogue and two schools near the site of a proposed casino at Broad and Callowhill Streets are taking action to block the project.

PHILADELPHIA A synagogue and two schools near the site of a proposed casino at Broad and Callowhill Streets are taking action to block the project.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Friends Select School, and the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School filed a "petition to intervene" Thursday with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Commission opposing the proposed Provence Casino.

The 424,000-square-feet project would include a casino, concert hall, restaurants, nightclub, and event and meeting space at the former home of The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. It would also have 3,000 slot machines and automated table games, and 150 table games.

In their petition, the institutions said the Provence, proposed by developer Bart Blatstein's Tower Investments, would be incompatible with a synagogue and schools.

"Most fundamentally, you don't put a casino within a few blocks of where thousands of kids are going to school and hundreds of people are going to pray. It's just a bad mix," said lawyer Larry Spector, who filed the petition.

Mathematics, Civics and Sciences is across Broad from the site. Rodeph Shalom, at Broad and Mount Vernon Streets, is two blocks away, and Friends Select, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is within three blocks. Also, the casino would be next to School District of Philadelphia headquarters.

The petition notes that none of the four other proposed casino sites in Philadelphia is located so close to schools and a house of worship.

Tower Investments spokesman Frank Keel said, "We're puzzled" by the petition. Tower and Blatstein "have met with more civic leaders and community groups than all of the other casino applicants combined."

The $700 million Provence project "has been extremely well received," Keel said.

Keel added that the company has "hired Allied Barton, the nation's largest security firm, to devise a significant security plan" that would cover the site and several surrounding blocks.

Provence is vying with four other projects - Market8 in Center City and three in South Philadelphia, Casino Revolution, Hollywood Casino, and Live! Hotel and Casino - for the city's remaining gaming license. The Gaming Control Commission will hold hearings in January on all five proposals. The petition will be presented at those hearings.

"The Tower site will create traffic, parking, and security problems that will jeopardize safe access to the petitioners' school and places of worship," the petition stated.

Dena Herrin, president of Rodeph Shalom, said traffic would be a key problem.

"We are very concerned about the possible impact of the casino on our neighborhood," Herrin said. "In particular, we are very worried about the traffic situation and I think it will have a negative impact on residential development in the area."

Herrin noted that the synagogue recently broke ground for a $15 million expansion.

Keel said Tower was in the process of mitigating any traffic problems and had offered to pay for the coalition's own traffic study.

Spector said it was important to file the petition before late January, when suitability hearings are scheduled for the five casino applicants.

Veronica Joyner, founder of Mathematics, Civics and Sciences, said a casino at the proposed site would be incompatible with the community.

"To bring gambling, drinking, and the clientele that comes with that is not conducive to community schools and family living," Joyner said.