Is a Hotel Coming to Area Between SugarHouse and Penn Treaty Park?
Spirit News recently obtained a rendering of what appears to be a hotel built on the land between the SugarHouse Casino and Penn Treaty Park. Our source, who spoke with us under the condition of anonymity, told Spirit News that the proposed hotel would be 24 floors in height.
Our source told Spirit News that they believed the rendering to be current because of the manner in which it was obtained, though we were unable to confirm whether the rendering is being actively considered, or whether it was an old plan that has resurfaced.
There are three lots between Penn Treaty Park and the SugarHouse Casino along North Delaware Avenue. The properties are: 1121-29, 1131-41 and 1143-51 North Delaware Avenue. Parts of the area in question are unused, but one section of the lot, owned by Henry Stewart Co., was recently acquired by the City of Philadelphia.
According to an article on Philly.com from January 2017, the city took ownership of the easement behind the Henry Stewart Co., a wire rope manufacturer between Marlborough and Shackamaxon Streets. The article states the city was able to take the strip of land connecting the SugarHouse Casino to Penn Treaty Park along the river through condemnation.
According to the article, the city plans on creating a fully connected 3.3-mile bike and walking path from Penn Treaty Park to Pier 70 near Tasker Street in South Philly. The rendering obtained by Spirit News does appear to have a divided bike path running along the river and curving around the casino and parking garage.
Spirit News checked up on the area in question, which is known as a place for vagrants and other people seeking to hide from sight for whatever reason. Currently, the land is littered with garbage, needles and plenty of evidence that multiple people sleep back there regularly. According to Philly.com, city spokesperson Paul Chrystie says construction on the plot can begin once weather conditions improve.
According to an article published by PlanPhilly in December 2015, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission gave the okay to move forward with acquiring the property through eminent domain at the Commission’s November meeting. The article states that negotiations between the Henry Stewart Jr. Co. and the City of Philadelphia were unable to produce a result, so the city was forced to condemn the easement in order to acquire it. According to city records, Councilman Squilla proposed the bill and Mayor Kenney signed it on December 15, 2016.
Councilman Squilla spoke to Spirit News about the city’s land acquisition. He says that he is happy to connect the bike trail and hopes the project begins as soon as possible.
“The money’s there for it. Everything’s ready to go. The plan is there; it’s just a matter of waiting on the parcel to be secured,” Squilla said. “You can’t wait forever for these projects. We have the resources to do it, so it’s just a matter of getting the lot secured and then starting that project to complete the trail.”
Councilman Squilla says he hopes the trail will be open for cyclists and pedestrians in the not-so-distant future. “I would say in two or three years we should have that trail completed,” he said.
He also acknowledged that a project like this faces unique challenges when gaining easements along the Delaware River. “The goal was from Oregon Ave. to Allegheny Ave.,” he said. “A lot of those parcels are privately owned, so you have to deal with everybody individually to get these easements approved. We’re close to getting it done.”
Spirit News asked the councilman if he was aware of any plans for a hotel on any of the parcels between SugarHouse Casino and Penn Treaty Park.
“[SugarHouse] may add a hotel. The original plans called for a hotel, so it would be great if they do expand, but I don’t know if that’s something that’s imminent or within the next year or two,” Squilla said. “It could be an old plan that’s resurfacing.”
Spirit News reached out to the SugarHouse Casino for comment. A spokesman from the casino told us that the rendering did not come from SugarHouse. Wendy Hamilton, General Manager of SugarHouse, also provided a statement to Spirit News regarding the casino’s future expansion plans.
“The possibility of a hotel was contemplated in the original SugarHouse plans,” Hamilton told Spirit News. “We recently completed a $165 million expansion and might consider a hotel on our existing property in the future. However, it will be difficult to justify investing more capital if the market becomes even more saturated with another casino.”
Currently, the SugarHouse Casino is the only casino in Philadelphia and has been able to grow significantly since opening its doors in 2010. The casino has added a food court, event center and a parking garage over the past six years.
Many other projects along the Delaware River waterfront, including the Delaware River Trail, have faced opposition from businesses, developers and the community. According to the same Philly.com article referenced earlier in this piece, the area in South Philadelphia where the Foxwoods Casino was once proposed to be built is still under the control of developer Bart Blatstein. The report states that the developer, well known in the Riverwards for building the former Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties, plans on turning that plot of land into a commercial and residential area.
According to Philly.com, the city hopes to gain an easement on that South Philly land through an $850,000 grant furnished by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR). The Foxwood Casino was successfully blocked by the community. It was also proposed to be built at the Gallery at Market East on Market Street, but that project was shot down too.
Other failed projects along the Delaware waterfront include the proposed Wynn Casino that would occupy waterfront land just north of Penn Treaty Park. This would have filled the second gaming license in Philadelphia. According to an article published in November 2013 by the Las Vegas Review Journal, Steve Wynn withdrew his proposal to build a 150,000-square-foot, $925-million-dollar casino.
With all the buzz surrounding Fishtown today and the influx of people visiting the area for the first time, a new hotel development along the Delaware River isn’t a far-fetched idea, though it is unclear how these renderings might impact Penn Treaty Park and the surrounding community.
Spirit News is following this story and will bring you updates as we receive them. •