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PHILADELPHIA-The selection of Foxwoods and SugarHouse riverfront sites for the city’s two casino licenses has drawn both praise and condemnation. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has promised to provide the rationale behind its decisions within weeks, and the law allows appeals to be filed up to 30 days after that. The licenses are conditional until the appeals process is complete.

A spokesman for Councilman James Kenney tells GlobeSt.com that Kenney and Councilman Frank DiCicco are working together on a plan to appeal the board’s decision. According to a statement from DiCicco, “the lawsuit will challenge the issuance of a license to Foxwoods and will explore how and why the PGCB made their final determination.” While less critical of SugarHouse, the statement says he did “express reservations about the site’s proximity to near neighbors.”

“We would certainly prefer to work this out through community meetings rather than a lawsuit, a Foxwoods spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com. “We have and will continue to work with the community and have pledged from the start to include a special services district, which address education, senior citizen and quality of life issues.” Greg Carlin, CEO of SugarHouse Gaming, tells GlobeSt.com, “It’s not surprising that DiCicco plans an appeal. He’s been trying to slow down the process from the beginning, and this gives him another opportunity.”

Mayor John Street endorsed only the Riverwalk plan in an analysis of all five contenders that he gave the board a day before the selections were announced. The analysis ranked SugarHouse and Foxwoods at the bottom of his list. Although he has not issued a public statement since the selection, a spokeswoman in his office says he intends to work with the developers, and Carlin confirms that the mayor’s office has offered the city’s full cooperation.

Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront, an anti-casino community group, vows “the fight begins again.” A statement following the decision says, “now that the casino’s have been licensed, our targets are clear. We are not going away.”

Carlin says, “We understand that neighbors have initial concerns. We’ll continue working with the community. Traffic will be a manageable flow throughout the day,” he says. “It’s not like a sports complex, where there’s a huge surge of traffic all at one time.”

Amidst the condemnation also comes praise. “Having both projects as north-south monuments along the river was a wise choice,” Rudyard Porter, director of locally based Cushman & Wakefield’s capital markets group, tells GlobeSt.com. “It will certainly, and already has, stimulated the creation of mixed-use designs to fill between the sites. This is all positive in terms of real estate and it pulls out the stick-pin that’s been holding some development back.”

Porter says he is not surprised at the choices. Of SugarHouse, he says, “Dan Keating has successfully built on the waterfront, which isn’t that easy,” referring to the local developer’s Hyatt Hotel and Dockside condominiums. Keating Group is part of the SugarHouse team headed by Chicago’s Neil Bluhm, a founder of JMB Realty Corp.; Carlin and Bob Sheldon, president of SugarHouse Gaming.

Of the Foxwoods site to the south, Leo Ullman, CEO of Port Washington, NY-based Cedar Shopping Centers, tells GlobeSt.com, “this is a very, very nice happening for us.” Cedar owns the nearby 142,166-sf Columbus Crossing and 247,072-sf Riverview Plaza I, II and III shopping centers. “We didn’t price these assets on the potential construction of a casino, but it’s very fortuitous. It gives more importance and value to our theater and restaurant tenancies.” He also suggests that in the future, “someone may want Riverview III for a use different from retail, such as residential or mixed-use,” although he adds that Cedar has no plans to sell it.

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