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Deadline Extended For MGM Housing Project Near Springfield Casino

Massachusetts casino regulators have given MGM additional time to work on a development project that is part of the company’s deal with the state to build a resort casino in downtown Springfield.

 The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is allowing another year for MGM to commit to invest in a project to redevelop a long-vacant six-story former hotel building in Court Square in the heart of downtown Springfield just a block from where the company’s resort casino is in the final months of construction.

To satisfy a commitment to bring market-rate housing to downtown Springfield, MGM has proposed investing $11 million with other developers who plan to build 60 single- and two-bedroom apartments in the building at 31 Elm Street.

Redeveloping 31 Elm Street was identified in a well-regarded study a decade ago as the key urban renewal project for downtown Springfield.  Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said the city supports MGM’s possible involvement in the project even if it means a delay in getting the new housing built.

"We feel that this is a very good deal for the city," said Kennedy.

The terms of MGM’s casino license with the state and its host community agreement with Springfield call for it to develop at least 54 units of market-rate housing within a half-mile of the casino as part of a strategy to further enliven downtown with more residential activity.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby warned MGM officials last year that there would be “dire consequences” if the housing is not built.

" I don't want there to be any misunderstanding; if something goes wrong, we will not be happy because this was a critical element," Crosby said.

Originally the housing was to have been built by the time the casino opened, which is scheduled to happen this September.  The Springfield City Council last year agreed to let the deadline slide to allow time for negotiations on the 31 Elm Street project.

The building is owned by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which in 2012 designated OPAL Real Estate Group as the preferred developer.

Michael Crowley, a consultant for OPAL, told city councilors last year the “stars are aligning” to get the project off the ground.

" We approached MGM and quickly between MGM, ourselves, the city, and the SRA it become logical that this was a fabulous opportunity to take this property and create the highest end residential property in downtown Springfield," said Crowley, who added the project is not feasible without the money MGM could put in.

MGM now has until March 1, 2019 to make a final commitment to the 31 Elm Street project or move on.  If 31 Elm falls through, MGM would have until March 1, 2020 to build the housing.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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