PA Historical and Museum Commission says SugarHouse has done enough digging

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has agreed with the Army Corps of Engineers that SugarHouse Casino has done all the archaeological work it must do before it can receive an Army Corps permit.

That means the historical review process required by federal law moves on to the next step: The creation of a Memorandum of Agreement which will guide further work at the Delaware Avenue site. While the Corps and PHMC are satisfied that SugarHouse has done all the pre-permit archaeological work that must be done, there is some work that remains – notably, searching the ground beneath Penn Street.

The Corps and the group of local historians, activists and archaeologists who have been advising the Corps in the historical review process say there is a chance significant finds could be made beneath the street, since that area has been protected from the construction and demolition that has happened on other portions of the site. Read more about the Corps’ findings.

SugarHouse’s team cannot begin looking under Penn Street until existing utilities there are shut off.

SugarHouse’s design plan recently changed under pressure from the city administration, and gone is a promenade that would have jutted out into the Delaware River.

“We spoke with the applicant’s representative (Keating) this week for the first time about the changes in very general terms, but we have not received any new submittals or official word from them yet to change the status of our permit review and the Section 106 process as part of that review,” Jim Boyer, a biologist in the Corps’ regulatory branch who has managed the historical review, wrote in an email to the consulting parties. “We expect to coordinate further with them in the near future to determine exactly what these changes will mean in terms of the permit application.”

At the April 6 press conference at which SugarHouse and city officials announced the design changes, Terry McKenna, project executive for SugarHouse’s general contractor, said the casino would still need an Army Corps permit due to some sewer-related issues. But McKenna said the interim casino – which city and SugarHouse officials said would be open within a year – can be built without the permit.

Some of the local advisors to the Corps, known as consulting parties, have not been satisfied with the historic review process. The Corps was actually satisfied many months ago, but SugarHouse volunteered to do more digging.  When the Corps recently announced for the second time that the pre-permit review was finished, Doug Mooney, president of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, said he would be turning his focus to the MOA. The consulting parties, the PHMC and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – the federal agency that oversees the historic review process – will all take part in the MOA process.

Click below to read the Army Corps findings and PHMC’s response.

-posted by Kellie Patrick Gates

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