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

“Rubin brought the idea to us,” Governor Rendell says. “We had looked at alternate sites for the casino, and all of a sudden, one day last summer, he calls. Then he called Nutter, and the ball started rolling in the right direction.”

The momentum — something Rubin says is crucial to all big deals — was about to shift quickly.

After Rubin called him, Governor Rendell called Frank DiCicco. They hadn’t talked in more than two years — the fallout over DiCicco’s casino opposition — but the Councilman and Mayor Nutter, who desperately needed the Governor’s support because of his own budget woes, were quickly on board with the move to the Gallery. DiCicco was sure Rubin was the right guy to rebuild Market East, the developer who could incorporate a casino into downtown the Via Veneto way. And DiCicco was, not surprisingly, desperate to be done holding the anti-casino torch in South Philly; he’d lived it for three years.

Early this year, however, there was another slight twist in where Foxwoods would land. Plopping it in the Gallery was looking pricey, based on demands of the Burlington Coat Factory and other tenants for relocation costs. Joe Coradino, who works under Rubin as the president of PREIT, had a brainstorm one day in a meeting with Foxwoods lawyers: Why don’t we put the casino in the old Strawbridge’s building at 8th and Market?

Technically it’s not part of the Gallery, though Rubin bought a chunk of it in 2004 when it appeared likely to become an office building and, therefore, a dark, uninviting anchor on the eastern edge of his mall. Coradino suddenly realized the huge — and empty — second and third floors in Strawbridge’s would work fine as a slots parlor; he halted the meeting with Foxwoods and took his prospective tenants on a tour of the building.

Presto! Foxwoods was moving again.

There are, of course, some interesting complications here to mull. Joe Coradino avers that Ron Rubin, an investor in Foxwoods, has nothing to do with renting space to his own casino — Rubin has recused himself from PREIT’s discussions with Foxwoods. So there Coradino sits, in the office next to Ron Rubin’s, an employee for 28 years who was made a partner by Rubin in a handshake deal at 15th and Market in 1983 — no contract between the two, ever — who now says that there’s no way he’d let this tenant, Foxwoods, put slots machines in the windows and corrupt a great old building and tart up the stretch of Market Street to boot. So … does Coradino never happen into the men’s room at PREIT, where he runs into boss and mentor and Foxwoods investor Ron Rubin, who just happens to have a thought or two about how to showcase a gambling hall?

Just asking.