Feb 4: Blatstein casino update | Bakers Centre ShopRite job access | Overbrook parish merger | St. Bonaventure’s grim future | Pittsburgh-Harrisburg Amtrak jeopardized

Good morning, and welcome to the working week. Enjoy the sunny, albeit chilly, morning: The skies are going to cloud up and bring another evening dusting of snow our way.

Bart Blatstein has swapped out casino operators for his casino/entertainment megaplex planned for the former Inquirer/Daily News Building, the Inquirer reports. Instead of Hard Rock Resort & Casino, he’s partnering with Isle of Capri Casinos of St. Louis. Blatstein said the switch was prompted because the Seminole-tribe owned Hard Rock was unable to meet the state’s licensing deadlines. Next Tuesday there will be a full day of presentations by casino candidates vying for Philadelphia’s second casino license. Casino teams have until February 14 to revise their plans.

Late last week neighbors got a full update on Bakers Centre, the former Tastykake site in Nicetown. As Amy Z. Quinn reports for PlanPhilly/NewsWorks, residents of Allegheny West, Nicetown, and Tioga were enthusiastic in support for Bakers Centre’s future ShopRite store, particularly after hearing that Owners Jeff and Sandy Brown are committed to local hiring. Jeff Brown explained how hiring would work and confirmed that they would consider everyone regardless of an applicant’s previous run-ins with the law.

Two Catholic parishes in Overbrook will merge effective February 24, reports the Inquirer. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Saint Donato Parish would become part of Our Lady of Lourdes because it did not see Saint Donato as “self-sustainable.” Since 2011 the Archdiocese has closed or merged 15 parishes as part of an ongoing strategic shrink based on dwindling mass attendance.

Meanwhile in Fairhill, St. Bonaventure offers another striking example of the extraordinary challenge of saving our city’s crumbling, historic religious architecture. Writing for Hidden City Daily, Michael Greenle details the building’s deteriorating condition and increasingly grim future. Preservation advocates have long-watched St. Bonaventure, but no solutions for its stabilization have been advanced. Meanwhile the building continues to fall apart: Slate is sliding off its steeple, and L&I considers it “unsafe.” St. Bonaventure opened in 1894 and was deconsecrated by the Archdiocese 99 years later. It was most recently used by New Life Evangelistic Church.

The Amtrak line between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg could be axed this fall, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. PennDOT would have to start subsidizing the western segment of the Pennsylvanian route at $5.7 million per year starting in October. Ridership is low on this segment because trains cannot travel fast enough to beat driving times. For service to be more attractive to prospective passengers, major track and equipment upgrades would be required. Should this segment disappear, Pittsburgh would have no rail connection to Philadelphia or New York, with only a Chicago-to-DC route stopping there. “It is a struggle for me to want to pay for that service,” PennDOT deputy secretary Toby Fauver told the Wall Street Journal recently.

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