December 13: Council approves land bank | W Hotel gets $33 million subsidy | Gaming Control Board hearings | Rail Park video | Rolling Stone visits Camden

Happy Friday, Streeters! As I’m sure you’ve heard, it is going to snow this weekend, but the experts are “still thinking” about exactly how much snow will fall.

In its last full meeting of the year, City Council unanimously approved the formation of a land bank. PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports that after Thursday’s vote, Philadelphia is the largest U.S. city with a land bank, which will help the city dispose of its 40,000 vacant properties. The work isn’t finished though. Structuring the land bank so that it is effective and efficient will require significant effort and the cooperation of several agencies. 

Council also approved a $33 million tax-increment financing (TIF) subsidy for the development of a W Hotel at 15th and Chestnut streets. TIFs allow increases in property and other taxes for certain projects to be devoted to project costs rather than the city for 20 years. While TIFs are used relatively sparingly in Philadelphia, a recent analysis showed that they tend to underperform

In late January, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will hold public suitability hearings at which the five casino operators vying for Philadelphia’s one remaining license will have a chance to make their case. The Gaming Board members are looking to hear about applicant’s character, operational and financial suitability, diversity plans, community impact, plans for the prevention of compulsive gambling and more. 

In making a case for the Rail Park, several key Philadelphia figures and project leaders participated in this video. The video speaks of the benefits of converting the Reading Viaduct, the elevated portion of the former railroad’s cross-city infrastructure, into a park. It also speaks of the City Branch as though it is already slated to be part of the Rail Park. That may be slightly controversial since early this year SEPTA said it could not fully commit to that before studying a public transit use. 

Rolling Stone visited Camden, that city “just across the Delaware River from the brick and polished cobblestone streets of downtown Philadelphia, where oblivious tourists pour in every year, gobbling cheese steaks and gazing at the Liberty Bell, having no idea that they’re a short walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge from a full-blow sovereignty crisis.” No matter how aware you are of Camden’s issues, like the fact that its last supermarket closed in September or that its population has plummeted from above 120,000 to 80,000, the article is worth a read.

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