Reaction Roundup: Oxford’s $3-billion development proposal for Front Street (which includes a casino)

Reaction Roundup: Oxford’s $3-billion development proposal for Front Street (which includes a casino)

(Image: Oxford Properties Group)

The city’s councillors and columnists are now debating the benefits and drawbacks of the second downtown mega-plan to be unveiled in as many weeks. On Friday, Oxford Properties unveiled a (previously leaked) proposal for a $3-billion revamp of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that would add two office/residential towers, a hotel, a new Eaton Centre–esque retail space and a strip of parkland. Of course, the entire plan is contingent on Oxford getting the go-ahead to build an on-site casino—a crucial detail we imagine is meant to put pressure on casino opponents (and to position Oxford as the logical choice to build it). Unsurprisingly, politicians and pundits jumped at the fresh opportunity to weigh in on the casino debate.

 Rob Ford remains pro-casino but said putting the project on publicly owned Exhibition Place or Port Lands will net Toronto more cash. Oxford estimates its proposal would net the city $50 million in annual tax revenues, plus a share of casino revenues, but Ford is still holding onto his oft-stated goal of $100 million a year.

The Toronto Sun’Simon Kent agreed that the casino shouldn’t be on private lands, and insisted that the Port Lands is the ideal site. Kent imagines a show-stopping piece of waterfront architecture—you know, like those high-rises topped by a ship in Singapore.

• Councillor Gord Perks outlined his opposition to Oxford’s plan succinctly: “It doesn’t matter how much lipstick they put on it. A casino is still a pig.”

• Toronto Star columnist Royson James observed that the release came just ahead of a city staff report on the pros and cons of a casino—sneaky timing, to ensure Oxford is fresh in councillors’ minds as they consider whether to okay a casino, where to put it and who should build it.

• For the other companies vying for the casino contract, the pro-casino momentum generated by the plan outweighed the fact that Oxford was getting all the attention. Jan Jones-Blackhurst of Caesar Entertainment praised the Oxford for “[focusing] the debate in a more meaningful way,” while Alan Feldman of MGM Resorts said, “It helps to articulate a vision of how this would work.”

• Oxford unveils $3-billion casino, convention centre proposal for downtown Toronto [National Post]
• Toronto casino should be in the Port Lands [Toronto Sun]
• $3-billion casino plan unveiled for downtown Toronto [Toronto Star]
• James: If Toronto must have a casino, let’s be sure it pays [Toronto Star]
• New vision for downtown Toronto hinges on casino [Globe and Mail]