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The Lifeless Reality of Urban Casinos

9:26 AM PST on March 7, 2013

Casinos are on the verge of becoming a standard feature of the American city. Perhaps you've heard of Pittsburgh's shiny Rivers Casino or Detroit's bankrupt Greektown Casino.

In Ohio, a ballot measure just opened the door to casinos in four cities. Setting aside the question of whether huge gambling facilities are a healthy presence in cities, is it possible to design these buildings so they fit into the street fabric well? Cincinnati's Horseshoe Casino was billed as "truly urban," but over at Urban Cincy, Eric Douglas says the reality doesn't match the hype:

The touted difference between Horseshoes Cincinnati and Cleveland and casinos elsewhere is that these have been deemed “truly urban” casinos. Well, if locating in a downtown is all that’s needed to make something urban, then mission accomplished.

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“Outward facing design” is a catchphrase that was repeated throughout the design process. What does that mean? To this project it means having one main entrance and restaurants with windows and a patio, quite the accomplishment for typically fortress-like buildings. But to say the design of the project is outward facing because of the openness of only 360 feet of the entire building’s facade and at only one of the intersections surrounding the site is like saying a restaurant near the entrance of a mall is outward facing because it’s on the exterior of the building.

The view down Pendleton [Street] towards the casino would be sad if it wasn’t so tan. No pedestrian connectivity, no windows, not even roof treatment. Nothing.

While the focus of activity for the casino will be at its entrance and new lawn for the county jail, the opportunity for Pendleton lies in what happens north of and down Reading [Road].

Cleveland's casino, meanwhile, will be sited in an existing downtown historic building. But the owner, Dan Gilbert, has torn down another historic building nearby to build a parking garage. Currently, Cleveland urbanists are fighting to stop the construction of a skywalk between the garage and the casino that would allow suburban visitors to avoid venturing onto city streets at all.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region reports that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues to use the state's transportation funds as an ATM, transferring money to plug holes in the state's general fund. American Dirt reviews Michael Tolle's new book, Who Killed Downtown? And Free Public Transit lists the costs to society of dependence on fossil fuels.

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