Rendell and Nutter still want to talk to SugarHouse about moving

   More than two months after Gov. Ed Rendell announced that he would ask the city’s two proposed casinos to move off the waterfront, no meeting with SugarHouse has taken place.

   But both the governor’s office and the mayor’s office say they are not abandoning the idea of a relocated SugarHouse.

   “The governor still would like to meet with SugarHouse representatives and have the same kind of discussions he had with Foxwoods,” said Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo. Foxwoods is now investigating a move to The Gallery at Market East. 

   At the Sept. 10 press conference where a gaggle of elected officials and Foxwoods investors announced that Foxwoods was exploring a move to The Gallery, Rendell said there was no point in meeting with SugarHouse until the State Supreme Court dealt with the city’s Sept. 5 petition asking the court to reconsider its decision in HSP Gaming v. The City of Philadelphia.  (The court had earlier ruled that a submerged lands license issued to SugarHouse during the Street administration, then revoked during the Nutter administration, still stands. SugarHouse needs the permit to build as planned on its current site.)

   The pending decision “helps explain why there is a lack of urgency – a piece of information is missing,” Ardo said. But the meeting is mostly dependent on scheduling.  “People are busy. There’s an election coming up so the Governor is less available – there are all sorts of things to prevent people from getting together,” he said.

    Ardo said the meeting would take place regardless of what the Supreme Court decides. He said the governor felt no differently about a SugarHouse move than a Foxwoods move, but stressed that in the end, it’s not really up to Rendell, because any move would have to be voluntary. “It’s not really the governor’s opinion that matters, it’s that of those at SugarHouse,” he said.

    SugarHouse has made no indication that it will leave its Delaware Avenue site. “We do not believe re-siting is an option,” SugarHouse spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker said. “But we are looking forward to sitting down with the Governor, Mayor and Rep. (Dwight) Evans to hear their concerns and work toward a resolution.”

     Foxwoods officials also once said that a move was not an option for them, either.  Investors now say that they were convinced in the same way Rendell was: Considering that a group of powerful elected officials opposed their waterfront site, it seemed they would open more quickly at a new site with less opposition. Activists, including those from Chinatown neighborhoods that are close to Market East, have vowed to keep the pressure on, however.

    Terry Gillen, senior advisor to Mayor Michael Nutter for economic development and his casino point person, said the city has been busy looking at what it would take to relocate Foxwoods to The Gallery, mostly in terms of planning and zoning issues. Representatives, including Councilman Frank DiCicco, continue to meet with Chinatown associations, she said.

    Gillen said she wasn’t in a position to say whether moving SugarHouse is as important to the city as moving Foxwoods. “We’re still interested in talking to SugarHouse about moving,” she said.

   Posted by Kellie Patrick Gates. Contact her at kelliespatrick@gmail.com 

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