|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 10, 2013--Developer Ken Goldenberg is hard to pin down. Like an object in perpetual motion, he pivots from one real estate project to another on any given day.
He has eight significant developments going on throughout the region, including high-rise student housing next to Temple University, luxury carriage homes behind Haverford College, and a mixed-use project in the Graduate Hospital area.
But one project clearly has the head of the Blue Bell-based Goldenberg Group excited. He wants to turn land he owns at Eighth and Market Streets -- currently a parking lot -- into a $500-million entertainment center called Market8, with a casino, dance club, concert hall, restaurants, and 12-story hotel.
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to profoundly transform an enormous swath of the city and one of its most important corridors," Goldenberg said last week as he unveiled details of the project.
"We're not trying to build a complex that will be an island to itself," Goldenberg said. "But rather, something that will interact integrally with the entire community and act as a catalyst to enhance and improve everything around it."
That includes, he said, the Convention Center, National Constitution Center, Gallery, and hotels and restaurants in the area. He wants his project to help transform the blocks of Market, from Seventh to 11th Streets, that have long waited for development.
Market East Associates L.P., the investor group headed by the 57-year-old Goldenberg, submitted its application to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in mid-November for a proposed casino. It has since been modified. The group is one of six vying for the license to build a second casino in the city.
Other applicants include developer Bart Blatstein, who wants to put a $700 million casino and entertainment complex on North Broad Street, and gambling mogul Steve Wynn, who has plans for a casino resort in Fishtown. The other three proposals -- by businessman Joseph Procacci, a partnership between Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. and Cordish Cos., and Penn National Gaming Inc. -- are for casinos at or near the Sports Complex.
On Wednesday, Market East Associates announced that Mohegan Sun, which owns a flagship casino in Connecticut and a racetrack casino in Northeastern Pennsylvania, would be the operator as well as a partner in the project.
The Market8 entertainment complex, said Goldenberg, will house five levels.
The ground floor will have five restaurants, a boutique, and a sweet shop.
Floors two and three will offer gambling, with 2,400 slots and 82 table games combined. There will be two additional restaurants, two bars with music, and a food court on both gaming floors. A VIP lounge will be on the third floor.
The fourth floor will feature a concert hall that will double as a banquet hall for weddings and conferences. A poker room with 30 tables, big enough to accommodate tournaments, will also be on the fourth floor.
Goldenberg said he also wanted to put a lounge on the fourth floor. "We're thinking about a Latin-style dance club with live music and good food and great drinks and a big, outdoor patio area," he said.
The fifth floor will have another restaurant, a rooftop garden, and the lobby of the planned hotel.
The hotel will have 168 rooms. Goldenberg is working with Neil and Jay Shah, who head the Philadelphia-based Hersha Hospitality Trust, which owns the Rittenhouse Hotel. He wants to develop an independent boutique hotel or a brand similar to Hyatt's Andaz.
The target customer: "Everybody," Goldenberg said.
Market East will make its first presentation to the gaming board Tuesday at the Convention Center, along with the other five applicants.
Goldenberg said proximity to the expanded Convention Center three blocks away and several hotels was an advantage.
"We anticipate filling up our hotel and generating an enormous demand -- more than enough -- for the Loews, Marriott, and the Monaco, with conventioneers, and those who want to visit the Historic District.
"We have to hit a home run here," Goldenberg said. "The project, with its various components, will fit perfectly into the middle of Market Street, much like Cinderella's slipper."
Goldenberg said his investor group represented a cross section of the community. Market East includes real estate developers David Adelman and Ira Lubert, and business executives Willie Johnson, Bill Miller, Cheryl McKissack, William Landman, and Mary Lawton.
"We're all about Philadelphia. We understand it," Goldenberg said. "We work here. We live here."
But Goldenberg acknowledged his group will have to win Chinatown's endorsement, and he plans to work closely with the community. Market8's site is three blocks from Chinatown, which has opposed casinos over anticipated traffic congestion and fears of increased gambling addiction.
Goldenberg, a civil rights attorney in the 1980s, said he had developed a niche in merging real estate with public interest work, and the Eighth and Market project ties in with that.
"We try to bring that sensibility to our real estate developments, like we do with charities -- to create win-win situations," he said. "We are committed to doing everything we can toward having everyone benefit from this project."
Contact Suzette Parmley
at 215-854-2855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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