Massachusetts casino regulators appear ready to formally endorse MGM’s role in an urban renewal project in downtown Springfield.
Members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission enthusiastically welcomed reports Thursday that a complex agreement to finance the long-discussed restoration and redevelopment of the former Court Square Hotel building was close to being finalized.
" I probably can fairly speak for all of us here that we are keeping our fingers crossed," said Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein , who along with the other commissioners praised MGM’s plans to invest in the project to construct apartments and space for retail in the historic building.
As a condition of its Massachusetts state casino license and its host community agreement with Springfield, MGM is required to develop at least 54 market-rate apartments within one-half mile of the casino.
The commission has granted MGM numerous extensions to fulfill its housing obligation.
At the urging of Springfield city officials, MGM last year agreed to invest $11 million in the Court Square project. Seth Stratton, MGM Springfield Vice President and General Counsel, told the commissioners that MGM’s stake in the project has now increased to $16 million.
" It does feel like an auspicious occasion to be here with this project on the one-yard line and moving forward," said Stratton.
In addition to Stratton, commissioners were briefed by Tim Sheehan, the city of Springfield’s Chief Development Officer, Mark Attia, a top finance official with the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, and Mike O’Brien of Winn Companies, one of the co-developers of the Court Square project.
Commissioner Gayle Cameron said the high level collaboration is impressive.
"This is a project we know how important it is to the city of Springfield, so it important that the highest level of government in the Commonwealth got behind this project," said Cameron. "It really is encouraging."
The five-member commission will likely take a formal vote after the Springfield City Council approves a proposed change to the city’s host community agreement dealing with MGM’s obligations to develop housing.
The council’s Casino Oversight Committee was briefed earlier this week on the status of the Court Square project and was told a financing agreement would be finalized in early March and construction could begin near the end of this year.
Because of its central location on Main Street across from the MassMutual center and overlooking Symphony Hall and City Hall, redeveloping the historic building has long been a priority for city officials.
The building, constructed in 1892, has been derelict for at least 30 years.