Rendell clarifies position on Market St. casino

    Sunday I ran a short story on Newsworks and on radio about former Philadelphia mayor and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell’s views on the competing proposals for a new casino in Philadelphia.

    Rendell said the one site among the six under consideration that should not host a casino is 8th and Market Sts.

    “I wouldn’t want a casino that close to Independence National Historic Park,” Rendell said. “Our history is a family experience, and I wouldn’t want it marred by a casino. It’s the same reason why, when I was governor, I formally opposed a casino in Gettysburg that would have been about a quarter mile from the battlefield.”

    But a couple of astute readers reminded me that back in 2008 when he was governor, Rendell supported Foxwoods’ proposal to move its proposed casino to the old Strawbridge & Clothier building at 8th and Market.

    I spoke to Frank DiCicco, who was the district City Councilman at the time, and is now a consultant on the current 8th and Market proposal by the Goldenberg Group. Yup, he said.

    “Ed Rendell called me and asked me if I could support it,” DiCicco said of the Foxwoods move to Market East. “I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Sunday, and I was at the shore.”

    When I got Rendell back on the phone, he said, yes, he’d supported the Foxwoods move, but with a condition.

    “I said the casino entrance and all signs about the casino have to be on the back side, not on Market Street,” Rendell said, “not facing what would be the avenue down to Independence National Park.”

    Rendell said tourists wouldn’t be walking in back of the Gallery, along Filbert Street, and keeping signs and entrances off Market St.  was “absolutely essential to us supporting them in any way.”

    I checked the clips and Council action on the Foxwoods proposal, which was eventually abandoned. When it first became public in October, 2008, the proposed location was between 10th and 11th Streets, two blocks farther west and farther away from independence mall than the 8th and Market site.

    And right there in the Daily News’ description of the project (written by me, it turns out), was this sentence: “No casino signs would be on Market Street, and entrances would all be on the numbered streets or Filbert Street in order to respect the historic character of the area.”

    Council passed an ordinance in November of that year establishing a special district between 10th and 11th to host a casino. By the following spring Foxwoods had moved its proposed location two blocks farther east, to the old Strawbridge building at 8th and Market. That idea collapsed within a few months.

    So it’s true Rendell supported a casino on East Market back then, and it’s also true the idea included keeping signs and entrances off Market St. Whether that amounts to a meaningful step toward preserving the family experience of the historic area you can judge.

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