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Vacant Former Hotel Near MGM Springfield Casino Eyed For Redevelopment

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To satisfy a commitment to build market-rate housing in downtown Springfield, MGM has now apparently decided to redevelop a long-vacant building located just a block from its resort casino project.

MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis indicated plans are in the works to build apartments in the long-vacant six-story former hotel building at 31 Elm Street in Court Square.

" We think 31 Elm Street and Court Square is really a key to downtown Springfield development," said Mathis.

 Speaking with reporters Thursday, he declined to discuss details, but noted such a project would expand MGM’s footprint.  In addition to the $950 million resort casino that is currently under construction on a 14.5 acre site, MGM will take over management this summer of the state-owned MassMutual center. The downtown civic center will serve as the convention and entertainment venue for the resort casino.

MGM initially planned to build apartments on the casino campus, but was forced to abandon those plans when the casino project underwent a major redesign.

Last year, MGM purchased from the city for $600,000 an historic building at 195 State Street that most recently housed the school department headquarters and announced plans to build apartments there.  No construction at that location has begun.

" 31 Elm right now is our priority. It is the city's priority," said Mathis. " We've agreed to focus our attention there and then we'll look at what is remaining on the commitment."

MGM’s host community agreement with the city of Springfield calls for the company to develop a minimum of 54 market-rate apartments downtown.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said MGM is now more than a month behind schedule to  produce plans for the housing.

" The commitment to housing was one of the critical elements of MGM's casino proposal, so we are not prepared to see any compromises on that commitment," said Crosby.

Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy told a meeting of the casino industry regulators Thursday that MGM was not to blame for the delay in the housing component of the project.

Like Mathis, Kennedy would not discuss details of what he called an agreement in-spirit.

"The business part of the deal has been agreed to, but you have to memorandum of understanding and a few other things and that is what the lawyers are working on right now," said Kennedy.

The property at 31 Elm Street is owned by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority. The agency has designated the OPAL Real Estate Group as preferred developer of the site.  The company reportedly was attempting to put a boutique hotel there.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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