Design Advocacy Group Bashes Bart But Says Casino Should Be Downtown

The Design Advocacy Group is a collaborative of very smart people: urban planners, architects, designers and likeminded guardians of the aesthetic who advocate for quality in the built environment. In other words, if a developer is planning something horrendously ugly or damaging to public life in Philadelphia, they’ll hear about it from the DAG.

No surprise, then, that DAG is on the case of the six proposed casinos. Today the group released a report card grading each proposal on siting and architecture. The overall conclusion? The best siting for a new casino–given the six options–would be Center City, especially because Philly already has a suburban-style casino in SugarHouse. Either downtown site–the Provence on Broad Street or Market 8 on Market–“has great potential to work synergistically with nearby development activity.” And, says DAG, “It makes sense to make our second casino different, targeting another audience that appreciates a larger, diversified leisure time experience.”

Of the six, only one got a good grade for architecture: Market 8. A harsh dig was taken at the developers of Live!: “The architectural hearts of these project developers are in Voorhees, not Philadelphia.” Come to think of it, that’s a dig at Voorhees too.

The strongest words were reserved for Provence developer Bart Blatstein:

The claims that the design shows “French influence” are baffling, and seem to be related to the small mansard-roofed structures (more like American houses of the 1860s than anything Parisian) that form a rooftop village of shops and restaurants that targets those already in the casino. This is not an appropriate style for an American city of the twenty-first century, and this effort at historical quotation contrasts almost surreally with the banality of the long Callowhill Street façade, which manages to fill two blocks and span 15th Street without making a significant urban statement.


Market 8 comes away with the best grade:

This proposal presents by far the best design….Market Eight’s six-story pedestal, with a ground floor entirely devoted to shopping and dining, associates itself well with the forms and functions of the surrounding midrise commercial neighbors, while its handsome sculpted glass skin introduces something new to Philadelphia’s modern repertoire. This is topped by a slender ten-story hotel tower…. this project’s contemporary, urban friendly approach gets an A- and extra credit for taking design seriously.