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Steve Wynn Outlines Plans for Foxwoods Casino

By Jennifer Lin, The Philadelphia InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 6, 2010--Casino mogul Steve Wynn on Monday declared that his plans for a South Philadelphia casino would be "Wynn top to bottom," carrying both his name and signature design.

After meeting for an hour and fifteen minutes with Mayor Nutter at City Hall Monday night, Wynn said in an interview with The Inquirer: "We only have one brand. We don't have a down-market brand. It's our place."

When Wynn Resorts surfaced in February as a new developer to take over the faltering Foxwoods Casino project, there was speculation that he might not bring his style of high-end casinos to Philadelphia.

Earlier in the day, Wynn delivered to the state's Gaming Control Board a package of color drawings of the casino -- three weeks ahead of schedule.

Regulators had ordered Wynn to submit design plans for the casino by April 26, with a public hearing on both the finances and architectural renderings scheduled for April 29.

"I've been working on it and thought: Why waste time?" he said. He said Wynn Resorts, the publicly traded Las Vegas gaming company he founded and heads as chairman, must get approval from state regulators to take control of the Foxwoods project.

But time is running out. He said the project would have to be moving forward, with the green light from regulators, by September. Under the new gaming law, the gaming board could give the project until December 2012 to open.

Wynn said he requested the meeting with Nutter.

"I thought it was appropriate to also show the mayor what we were thinking," said Wynn, who was accompanied by his girlfriend, Andrea Hissom, and the project's builder, Dan Keating, chairman of Keating Group.

Nutter, who was joined by Alan Greenberger, executive director of the City Planning Commission, called the meeting "cordial and respectful." The mayor said he was direct in telling Wynn he needed not only to engage the public moving forward, but also to respect the fact that the city has a vision of making the waterfront more accessible to the public and integrated into neighborhoods.

From the mayor's point of view, the goal of the meeting was "less about what it's going to look like and more about how we establish a working relationship to move this thing along."

Wynn said he planned to "make all the stops" with community groups, as well as meet with City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who represents the district where the casino is proposed.

In response to the mayor's concerns about the casino fitting in with the city's overall plan for the waterfront, Wynn said he could envision buying the vacant Comcast property to the north, as well as the headquarters of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, for a hotel. "Then you would really have a shot of having a neighborhood there," he said.

Wynn said both city officials and neighbors had expressed "an awful lot of consternation about congestion on Columbus Boulevard."

"Yet the site is the site," said Wynn, adding that the matter has been adjudicated in the courts.

"Now the question is how to make it beautiful," he said.

As he told the gaming board last month, Wynn wants to draw traffic off Columbus Boulevard by widening both Tasker and Reed Streets. The only thing he'd ask the city for is a left-turn signal at the traffic light at Tasker.

Wynn said he personally designed the proposed casino, which will echo his second casino in the Chinese city of Macau, to open later this month.

"We have no neon," Wynn said, "only landscape lighting in front."

The sketches that Wynn shared with the mayor show a low-slung limestone building with red canopies, a fountain in front, shrubs, and flowering landscaping.

"I call it classical elements except with contemporary sensibilities," Wynn said.

The Las Vegas casino operator said patrons would walk into a lobby with a domed ceiling. "You don't walk into slot machines," he said.

He added that there would be a separation, too, between restaurants and gaming floor space. "Neighborhood people can come and eat and enjoy the facility without having to deal with the din of slot machines," he said.

Wynn said he had visited the other casinos in the Philadelphia area. "That's not what we do," he said. "We separate the casino from the non-casino" amenities.

If Wynn Resorts takes over the Foxwoods Casino project, it will be just the latest twist in a tortuous history. An arm of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe of Connecticut was originally supposed to develop and operate the casino, but fell on economic hard times. Local investors, led by developer Ron Rubin, New Jersey entrepreneur Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, have been scrambling for the past year to find a replacement for the tribe.

Wynn said that on Friday he signed a binding "term sheet," outlining details of how control would change to Wynn Resorts.

"As for Steve Wynn, the deal is done," he said.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com.

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To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.philly.com/inquirer.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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