Chinatown's long struggle to build a community and recreation center on the north side of Vine Street, seen as vital in spurring development on that side of the Vine Street expressway, moved a step closer this week when the state legislature voted to turn over a parcel of state-owned land to the city.
Gov. Rendell is expected to sign the legislation, signed by the House of Representatives today, that turns a PennDOT parcel on the northwest corner of 10th and Vine to the city's Redevelopment Authority. The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) has been seeking the bill's passage since January 2005.
Sen. Vincent Fumo, (D-Phila) and Rep. Mike O'Brien, (D-Phila.), pushed the bill because the property is in their districts. The two are also involved in the proposal to move the proposed Foxwoods Casino from South Philadelphia to the Gallery at Market East on
Chinatown 's southern border.
Fumo, O'Brien, the Governor, and PCDC all rejected any link of the Community Center bill to the Foxwoods proposal as a peace offering to
Chinatown , whose support will be critical to the Foxwoods proposal making it through City Council.
"It’s just a routine land transfer that hopefully will make life in Chinatown a little bit better by providing space to build a community center," said Chuck Ardo, Rendell's spokesman. O'Brien pointed out that the bill was considered in June, and passed along with several other land transfers in the past few weeks. John Chin, executive director of PCDC, said O'Brien had promised him before summer break -- long before the Foxwoods deal was on the table -- that the Community Center bill would pass this fall.
"I think what got it moving was our loss of patience last year, when the bill fell down a few feet from the finish line," Chin said. The Center, which would occupy a 15,000 square foot parcel made up of the state property and two others assembled under
's NTI program, has been discussed as a concept for 25 years. It still has to be funded, Chin said, and there is a long way to go.
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