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Player's Advantage

Design group asks for casino delay

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2007

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has denied a Pittsburgh design group's plea to postpone tomorrow's ground-breaking for the $450 million Majestic Star Casino on the North Shore.

Citing aesthetic problems with the size of the casino's 119-foot-tall parking garage next to the 60-foot casino, Civic Design Coalition Chairwoman Anne-Marie Lubenau sent a letter to Ravenstahl that says the garage would ruin the look of the North Shore along the Ohio River.

"As one of the region's largest and most visible new developments, the current design of the North Shore casino -- specifically the massing of the garage and casino -- remains a serious concern," she wrote. Lubenau said the parking garage would be a "concrete blight on our iconic vista," referring to the North Shore riverfront.

"The ground-breaking is going to move ahead as planned," said Alecia Sirk, Ravenstahl's spokeswoman. "There's a level of excitement that's built up to this ground-breaking and it's going to move ahead."

The ground-breaking is set for 10 a.m. on North Shore Drive, just west of the Carnegie Science Center where the casino will be built. Construction is expected to take 16 months.

The coalition's letter asked Ravenstahl to do four things:

  • Allow the city Planning Commission more time to hear concerns from the public about the casino's design and delay a final vote;

  • Ask Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Gov. Ed Rendell not to attend the ground-breaking;

  • Hold a public meeting with Majestic Star owner and CEO Don Barden to talk about the casino and garage design;

  • Postpone tomorrow's ceremonial ground-breaking of the Majestic Star Casino on the North Shore.

    Barden has agreed to install decorative screening on the parking garage to improve its look. He has also agreed to make a portion of the casino smoke-free, another demand from design advocates.

    Sirk said Ravenstahl has gathered public input since Majestic Star won a gaming license from the state Gaming Control Board last year. She said he would respond to Lubenau's concerns, but she was unsure how he would do that.

    She said the city Planning Commission plans to hold a public hearing and vote on the exterior design of the casino Jan. 14. There are no plans to delay it.

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