Hearings: Goldenberg Ready for Takeoff; Blatstein Understands Urbanity

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held its second day of hearings at the Convention Center yesterday. During one of the breaks I had a chance to talk with Ken Goldenberg, founder and president of the Goldenberg Group, a leader of Market8, one of the six groups pitching the board to win the right to develop Philadelphia’s second casino. Goldenberg, a Harvard Law, Wharton and Germantown Academy graduate, argues that “the city’s future and fortune rise and fall with the success of Market East.”

He referred to phase three–“take off”–in Rostow’s Theory of Development, and claimed that building a casino at Eighth and Market would be the catalyst that would trigger “take off,” not just for the few blocks surrounding Market East, but for much of the city as well. (These guys think big.)

Developer Ken Goldenberg takes a break at the Casino Hearings

According to Goldenberg, there’s not much for conventioneers to do around Market East other than to go to a convention. So once the meeting or trade show closes for the day, they’re on their way to Atlantic City. He said that if the commission lets him build his casino and the adjoining restaurants, nightclubs and events hall, all those visitors will stay put, except maybe to venture out to the new “off campus restaurants and shops” that will sprout up within walking distance or a short cab ride from the casino.

I also spoke with Jeff Saunders. He’s a board member of the West Poplar Community Development Corp. Saunders said that he endorsed Bart Blatsteins’s Provence Casino plan, sited at the former Inquirer building at 400 North Broad, “with serious reservations.”

Saunders noted that when people go shopping for real estate, “having a casino that’s a six minute walk from their home is not on anybody’s checklist.” He suggested that if Blatstein could see his way to distributing, say, $5 million toward improving the trees, lampposts, sidewalks, etc. in the nearby neighborhoods, that would go a long way toward the community not having a NIMBY view of the casino. Saunders said that if anybody was capable of getting the neighbors to be proud of saying that “I live in the Provence area,” it would be Blatstein. “Bart understands urbanity,” Saunders said.