Friday, April 12, 2013

Blob Leads Philadelphia Casino Proposals

The more 'original' our 'architects' try to become, the more they stay the same.  Isn't that funny.

Leading off this article on the recent 'report cards' given to the current Philadelphia casino proposals by a civic group is a rendering of the project to which they awarded the highest grade.  It's fascinating, yet not at all surprising, how similar this... thing... is to the newly-proposed BART San Francisco Trans-Bay Transit Center, which was quite deservedly savaged by Jim Kunstler as his current Eyesore of the Month feature.

Of particular note to me in this rendering of the "Market8" (how futuristic-sounding!) parasitic protozoan-looking (and sounding - the casino that 'ate' Market Street?) proposal at Market & 8th at the heart of one of the most historic streets in America, is the blurry, speeding car which looks like its driver has lost control and is just about to hop the curb and plow into the crowd of pleasure- and treasure-seekers milling about outside.  Which said pedestrians are maybe trying to figure out how to even get inside the fucking thing.

(You probably have to get somebody to drive you into it through the subterranean series of access roads and parking dungeons which are planned to come along with this project, even though it sits at a spot where the Market-Frankford, Broad-Ridge and PATCO subway lines all converge, not to mention the two dozen SEPTA, NJ Transit and intercity bus lines that run along Market, Chestnut, 8th & 9th; along with SEPTA's Market East station, a few blocks to the west, through which all 13 of our regional commuter rail lines run; and 30th Street Station, eight (train ride) minutes to the west, which is the 3rd-busiest Amtrak station in the nation, and also hosts yet another regional commuter rail line - NJ Transit's Atlantic City line.)

None of the projects look or sound good in the very least, as they're all generally of the auto-centric eyesore variety.

Take Steve Wynn's (yes, Las Vegas Steve Wynn) proposal, for example.  A 'riverfront' casino which, naturally, sticks its rear end out at the river in favor of facing the fantastic views afforded by the elevated traffic sewer of I-95 on its other side, and whose centerpiece looks like it comes right out of the 1965 version of the Generic Highrise Hotel Handbook for Dummies.  It also contains a 20-acre (yes, 20-acre - that's the size of three Rittenhouse Squares, and almost 15 times the size of the nearest City of Philadelphia Rec Center in Fishtown!), single-story parking lot with a... wait for it... 'green roof.'

Mr. Greenwashing also, not surprisingly, trashed the potential of public transit, in what fortunately turned out to be, by all accounts, a terrible performance in front of the board.  If nothing else, Mr. Wynn made it very clear that he does not understand Philadelphia is an extremely walkable city with a thriving public transit and bicycling culture, and not just a colder version of Phoenix or Las Vegas.  Hopefully this will cost him the bid, but that's of little comfort in the end.

The idea that perhaps yet another casino (we already have one in the city, as it just so happens only a few blocks from Wynn's proposed site in Fishtown; along with two others both just a few miles up or down I-95 in either direction, in Chester and Bensalem) may not be the most positive way to do 'economic development' seems to be completely out-of-bounds in the debate around here.  Then again, I'm certainly not shocked at that, since the idea of a happy motoring, adult fantasyland, something-for-nothing utopia sadly seems to appeal to all too many these days, at the very same time when the cumulative effects of our past debts, our energy situation, and our built environment all threaten to impose their own changes upon us soon.

So we cling to a past that never was (while we let our actual history fall into decay and burn down), in hopes that we'll somehow be able to live in a form of the future that will never be sustainable.  I only hope we can wake up in time, and stop this madness.

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