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Old Posted May 9, 2009, 4:13 AM
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Fri, May. 8, 2009

Interested party surfaces to oppose Foxwoods plan
By Jennifer Lin

Inquirer Staff Writer

A new obstacle to Foxwoods Casino's move into the old Strawbridge's building emerged yesterday at a City Council hearing - an opponent so significant that members postponed a zoning vote on the project.

In a terse statement, Joshua Cohen, a lawyer for Gramercy Capital Corp., described the property at 801 Market St. as a "business condominium" and said his client owns the top six floors of the 13-story building.

Gramercy opposes the casino zoning designation, Cohen told Council, saying it "would not be in our best interest."

The Foxwoods partnership has been negotiating for months with the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust for a lease to open a slots parlor on two floors. But first the building must be zoned for a casino. Currently, that designation exists for the Gallery mall in Market Street East, from which Foxwoods wants to relocate the project.

"Contrary to what" PREIT purports, it does not "own" the entire building, Cohen said.

In a surprise turn, Council's Rules Committee decided not to vote until next week on shifting the casino zoning to the Strawbridge's site.

Foxwoods needs the new zoning for Strawbridge's before it can ask the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to move its site off the waterfront. Under terms of its license, Foxwoods was supposed to have 1,500 slot machines operating by May 29. It also must ask the board for an extension of that license.

The move to Strawbridge's would require the renovation of two floors - a far simpler design than once envisioned for the waterfront, where a hotel, sprawling casino, and parking garage were planned.

A half-dozen neighborhood groups testified against a downtown casino.
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