Ron Rubin Was Here

He’s left a bigger mark on Philly than anyone this side of Willard Rouse, and now, at 77, he wants to put a casino in Strawbridge’s. The key to being Ron Rubin? Patience, and knowing how deals here really get done

It’s the sort of question that gnaws at City Planning Commission member Natalia Olson de Savyckyj, who doesn’t like how the casino is being jammed downtown willy-nilly. City officials tend to say, naturally, that the appropriate hoops will be jumped through — that traffic and parking and gambling-addiction studies will be done for the Market East site, that proper consideration will be given to what to do about the soup kitchen at 8th and Arch, that Chinatown will be heard from. …

“We request from all developers that they present a strategy for development, drawings, ideas, that they meet with the community,” Olson de Savyckyj says. “We haven’t seen these [Foxwoods] guys. Nothing. Zero.” She was the only planning commission member to vote against approval for Foxwoods moving to Market East: “I don’t want to look back 20 or 30 years from now and say, ‘That was harmful.’ Philadelphia’s process is very loose.” What’s more, it’s easy to forget that the two slots-parlor licenses were originally awarded in Philadelphia, to Foxwoods and Sugarhouse, on the basis not just of who would build them, but where.

Ron Rubin, with half a century’s expertise in how to see a project through, rewarded for his patience as the casino game changes, seems to be rolling downhill now, with Rendell and Nutter and DiCicco all very self-interested politically in a casino getting built in Market East, which could happen relatively fast, since it’s slated for a standing building.

When I ask Rubin whether casinos are a good thing to put in his city, he pauses for a long time.

“I think,” he says, and then stops again, thinking.

“In some respects it’s positive, and in other respects it’s negative. It’s like everything else in life. It’s positive for certain reasons, certainly economic. It provides a substantial amount of money to the city. It’s attractive to some conventioneers. Are there issues with regard to addiction? I think there probably are.”

THE BUSINESS OF America is business. It’s a shame, in this era of financial market collapse, that that little homily from the era when Ron Rubin’s father was a young man just starting out, delivering shoes at the back door of the Bellevue, sounds so quaint. A certain manner of doing business, Ron’s method, goes a long way:

Jeff Rotwitt remembers the end of a long day of negotiations with imperious Fidelity Mutual bankers from New York, hammering out the Meridian Plaza deal in 1989. But what Rotwitt remembers isn’t Rubin going toe-to-toe with Fidelity Mutual, or even wearing the bankers down with his patience, but Rubin’s sweetness. Rubin sent out to Pat’s for 40 cheesesteaks at 2 a.m. and then worried over whether the paralegals and secretaries, everybody and anybody in the room, got the requested fried onions or Cheez Whiz.