Out at home? CBP attendance dropped last season. Photograph: Aero-Imaging, Inc./Newscom
The first 10 years of Citizens Bank Park, I think we can all agree, have been pretty great. Five division titles. Eight winning seasons. One magical night in October 2008. Many fans will claim 11th and Pattison as hallowed ground long after global warming turns it into a beach.
But do you remember when the decision to build in South Philly seemed like not just a defeat — but a complete failure of civic imagination? In the early days of the debate on replacing Veterans Stadium, folks were hot for a Camden Yards-style retro park smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Fans whimsically debated putting a new park at the old Schmidt’s brewery, near 30th Street Station, even on the waterfront. Politicians talked more realistically about two locations: North Broad at Spring Garden, and in Chinatown at 12th and Vine.
But each proposed site was eventually sunk by some combination of community or political NIMBYism and logistical or infrastructural clusterfuckery. So the new stadium arose in the shadow of the old one, in the expanse of parking lots and nothingness we call, as if it were an affliction, the “sports complex.”
When the Phils were the best team in town, it didn’t much matter where their stadium was. But last year, attendance dropped by half a million fans. And we may face another dismal August in South Philly. It’s worth asking: Did we blow it?
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Let’s just get this out of the way: There is no actual forensic, DNA-firm, hold-up-in-court evidence that Wegmans is coming to downtown Philadelphia. None whatsoever. Reputable, in-the-know sources have scuttled the scuttlebutt, which first popped up last month with the announcement of Bart Blatstein’s proposed development at Broad and Washington (floorplans and more info below, by the way). For instance:
Passyunk Post: “A source who would know, but who required anonymity, told us that in no uncertain terms, Wegmans ‘is definitely NOT coming to Broad and Washington.’
Naked Philly: “So could [Wegmans] really be happening?!?! Unfortunately, our sources tell us that it isn’t. As was the case previously, we’re hearing that the likely tenant will be a Superfresh or a Giant.”
A Wegmans spokesperson — someone called someone! because reporting! — told the Passyunk Post “they have no plans for a location in Philly proper.”
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Site of the former Foxwoods Casino plan via Google Street View.
Things seem to have come full-circle for the old Foxwoods property in South Philadelphia. Bart Blatstein, one of the current five contenders for the city’s second gaming license, is said to be purchasing the failed casino site for $13 million. Blatstein had once planned a shopping center for the 16-acre plot back in 1993 when he owned it.
According to the Inquirer’s Jennifer Lin, people like deputy mayor for economic development Alan Greenberger are excited for what this might mean for the area:
As part of the deal, Blatstein will convey to the Natural Lands Trust, a local land conservation organization, a 100-foot-wide strip of land along the river’s edge from Tasker Street to Reed. That will allow the city to continue a waterfront trail across the former Foxwoods site on South Columbus Boulevard, between Tasker and Reed Streets.
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Big news: Philly developer Bart Blatstein and concert promoter Larry Magid are set to make an announcement tomorrow about live entertainment programming at Provence Resort and Casino, Blatstein’s $700-million proposed project on the site of the former Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News building.
Details are sparse, but more will be announced tomorrow at 11 a.m. Stay tuned to Ticket for more.
Casino Revolution renderings: exterior and (inset) bar area. Renderings by Hnedek Bobo Group.
Today is the start of three days of hearings during which the final five bidders for Philadelphia’s casino license will make their case before the PA Gaming Control Board. Established venues such as SugarHouse will also be granted the opportunity to present their rebuttal against the new projects to avoid losing business.
Among the prospective projects, three are proposed for South Philly (Live! Hotel & Casino, Casino Revolutions, and Hollywood Casino), one in Callowhill (the Provence), and one in Center City (Market8). The schedule of the hearings is as follows:
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A rendering of Bart Blatstein’s Provence casino.
One of the things that struck us about Bart Blatstein’s Provence casino proposal from the day it was announced was the function the casino would perform. Of course, it’s the largest single element of the project, but both from its placement (above the street-level restaurants and shops) and the facilities attached to it (a concert venue and rooftop shopping village), it almost seemed the casino was an appendage needed to make all the other goodies possible.
Since that grand announcement party almost a year ago, the other projects vying for the city’s second casino license have largely evolved in the Provence’s direction. Market8, the closest in concept at the start, enlarged its hotel and added more street-level variety. Casino Revolution tacked on a theme park of sorts. And so on.
Blatstein’s introduction of two star chefs for the Provence more or less confirmed our view of the project. It’s not that casinos lose money; if they did that, there wouldn’t be five bidders competing for one casino license. Rather, it’s that the casino is no longer the biggest moneymaker in such projects.
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Photo of the chefs with Blatstein (center) by Sandy Smith
Two star New York chefs whose restaurants sparked neighborhood revivals, Tom Colicchio and Andrew Carmellini, will establish operations in Philadelphia as part of developer Bart Blatstein’s proposed Provence casino-entertainment complex.
Blatstein introduced the pair at a short press conference in a tent atop the parking garage at 15th and Callowhill streets that will fall to make way for the casino and its accompanying shops and restaurants should the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board award the second and last casino license in Philadelphia to his project.
Both Colicchio and Carmellini have track records of opening outstanding restaurants that serve acclaimed cuisine.
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Tom Colicchio and Andrew Camellini with Bart Blatstein | Amanda Laura
If Bart Blatstein lands Philadelphia’s remaining casino license he will bring two nationally known chefs to town. Bart Blatstein told the assembled media at the North Broad Street site of what he hopes will be his Provence Casino that Tom Colicchio and Andrew Carmellini will open restaurants in the complex.
Tom Colicchio, who is known for hosting Top Chef and his Craft restaurants hints that he will be doing a steakhouse that will utilize local farmers for produce and beef as well. He added, “I have a few steakhouses already but I want to do something different, something unique for Philadelphia.”
As for Andrew Camellini, who has six restaurants in New York and Miami, the James Beard winning chef is leaning towards an Italian restaurant. Despite the French name of Provence, the chef is thinking Italian Riviera. “It’s not far from where my family is from, so I think that’s where I’m headed to draw inspiration from.”
Each chef has time to nail down their concept as the gaming board isn’t expected to announce a winner of the second Philadelphia casino license till later in 2014.
For more on Blatstein and the Provence Casino, check out Property.
Bart Blatstein talks with Philly Mag Editor in Chief Tom McGrath at the ThinkFest Salon Series. Thankfully, he had a few comments that evening.
Yesterday Passyunk Post reported that there was a rumor that Bart Blatstein was going to buy the large vacant lot at Broad and Washington, aka, the Cirque du Soleil lot. Actually, this rumor has been on the wind for quite a while, but real estate deals take forever to go through, and it’ll probably be on the wind for a little longer before we get any confirmation yes or no.
However, a gal has to try, and try I did, so here is a transcript of our on-the-record conversation. If you’d just like to apply this transcript to other rumors surrounding Bart’s real estate deals, feel free.
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Last week the Philadelphia Historical Commission considered building changes requested by developer Bart Blatstein, who bought Rittenhouse Square’s long vacant McIlhenny Mansion in April as a personal residence. According to PlanPhilly, “the Blatstein case was considered from two vantages:”
whether the changes he was requesting were merely “alterations” or if they constituted “demolition” of historic fabric; and whether the design of the new building is compatible with the overall historic district.
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