Some New Insights Into Market8, The Downtown the Casino Proposal

Today, members of Mayor Nutter’s administration gave their opinions to the PA Gaming Control Board on the six proposals currently under consideration for Philadelphia’s second casino license. If you’d like a rundown of all of the groups vying for this lucrative license, check out this excellent summary from today’s Daily News. But for now, we have some new information on the MARKET8 proposal, along with the sparkly new rendering that showed up in our inbox yesterday.

For those unfamiliar with the recent history of the surface parking lot on 8th & Market, here’s a brief summary. Over thirty years ago, the old Gimbel’s building was demolished after the company moved across the street to the then-new-and-fancy Gallery Mall. Several possible projects came and went for this site over the years, with the most famous being an indoor amusement park called DisneyQuest, proposed around the year 2000. A giant hole was dug at the site in preparation for this attraction, but it was never built. The hole remained here for several years, until it was mercifully filled in to become a surface parking lot. Never would have thought we’d like a surface lot better than anything but rest assured it’s an improvement over the hole.

Current view
A possible improvement over the surface lot

The latest idea for this corner is MARKET8, a casino owned in a partnership between by the Goldenberg Group, the guy who owns of Campus Apartments, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, and a few others. The main pitch here seems to be that this casino will help to reinvigorate one of Center City’s most depressing yet most visible patches, inspiring additional investment in the area thanks to added foot traffic. With a first floor that would exclusively feature restaurants and retail, we can certainly see how the casino would attract more people to the area. Whether that would spread past the casino’s footprint, however, is anybody’s guess.

Inside, the gaming will be located on the second and third floors, along with bars, additional restaurants, and lounges. The fourth floor will feature a concert hall, a couple of event spaces, and a poker room. The fifth floor will be a lobby area for a 168-room hotel that will rise above the glass box of the first several floors. Let’s just say the design is a small step up from the last hotel that was built in the area.

New hotel at 12th & Arch
Closer look at the first few floors

There’s no doubt that this proposal looks really sexy and could be a game changer for Market East. Certainly, it compares only with the Provence in terms of possible economic value generated to a surrounding area. The other four proposals are somewhat remotely located, and like Sugarhouse would seemingly operate on an island, with little impact to the surrounding area in terms of stimulating economic development. That being said, the question of whether a casino can be a source of economic development for its immediate surroundings is absolutely a point of contention, with experts taking up both sides of the debate. Should this proposal be the one that’s selected, we will have a first-hand test of the theory, and should have a good idea which side is correct within a couple of years of the place opening its doors.

The winning bid should be chosen sometime in early 2014.