Casino Design Review Looks At Parking And Traffic

An artist's rendering of Foxwoods in South Philly.

PennPraxis calls it the "Casino Vision Matrix" -- a list of more than 80 questions about the designs for two proposed riverfront casinos.  The matrix questions whether the designs fit into the PennPraxis plan for a redeveloped riverfront.  The casinos scored well in some areas, poorly in others.   They got the worst PennPraxis grade -- "Can't be fixed" -- on three questions about parking.  The academic group, part of the University of Pennsylvania, found both Foxwoods in South Philly and SugarHouse in Fishtown failed to remedy the "auto-dominated landscape" and planned large parking garages that cut off views and access to the riverfront.

PennPraxis is holding a three-day discussion this week at the behest of Mayor Nutter, who last month said the casinos "as currently designed simply don't fit" into the city's riverfront plans.  But a panel of five architecture and traffic experts see opportunities where others see problems.

Architectural designer Tim Magill, countering talk of having the casinos move garages off-site, said parking could be a "catalyst" for riverfront redevelopment if Foxwoods and SugarHouse would allow anyone to park even if they weren't casino customers.  Magill added that the casinos should provide direct access to the riverfront from garages so that drivers would not have to walk through the casinos.  Traffic engineer Walter Kulash said concerns about casino traffic may be overblown since the projects would bring in about the same number of cars as a "run of a mill" shopping center.  Kulash said the casinos will help bring people to the riverfront. "Let's calm down," Kulash added.  "This is really manageable traffic use."

The PennPraxis project, which started yesterday, wraps up tomorrow morning.  The group plans to present its findings to Nutter by the end of next week.