Casino regulators in Massachusetts are allowing MGM more time to develop the housing that is to accompany the Las Vegas company’s gambling resort in Springfield.
MGM will have until April 1st to bring to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission a plan for meeting its commitment to develop market-rate housing that is within walking distance of the downtown casino.
The commission voted unanimously to give MGM another 30 days to decide whether to invest in a project to redevelop into apartments a long-vacant six-story building located about a block away from the $960 million casino.
But, Commissioner Enrique Zuniga warned this is likely to be the last deadline extension.
"I hope this does not turn into another 30 days and another 30 days and we find ourselves next year still talking about this," said Zuniga. "There has to be a reckoning at some point."
Springfield City Solicitor Ed Pikula said the 30-day extension was sought by city officials who have encouraged MGM to invest in the project.
"We need to have a plan B ready and I know MGM is working on that," said Pikula.
A few days before the gaming commission meeting, a development group reported it was very close to putting the last financial piece in place for the $55 million project.
Michael O’Brien, executive vice president of Boston-based WinnCompanies, said they are working to nail down the final 10 percent of the financing, roughly $5 million, which would allow the project to happen.
"We have a source that we are in current conversations with, negotiations with," said O'Brien. "Those are going very well on that last 10 percent."
WinnCompanies is the co-developer with Opal Real Estate of Springfield.
Speaking at a meeting of the Springfield City Council’s Casino Oversight Committee, O’Brien said the $11 million offer from MGM is a critical part of the project’s financing. Other funding includes private investment and state and federal historic tax credits.
If the financing gap is closed in the next few weeks, construction could begin by the end of this year with a projected completion by the end of 2021.
Redeveloping the Elm Street block in Court Square has long been identified as a key to reviving downtown Springfield.
City Councilor Mike Fenton, who chairs the Casino Oversight Committee, said it is a complicated project worth waiting a while longer for.
"This project has sort of been the golden goose that has evaded us for decades in Springfield," said Fenton. " It has always been a very inegral part to downtown economic development. We have an opportunity here to finally move forward in a positive way."
The casino development agreement between MGM and the city calls for the company to build at least 54 units of market-rate housing in downtown Springfield.
The Court Square project envisions about 60 apartments that would be rented at market-rates and 14 that would be available for tenants whose income is 80 percent of the region’s median income.