A significant urban renewal project in the heart of the largest city in western Massachusetts may be moving forward with financial backing from casino giant MGM.
MGM informed the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Thursday that it intends to invest in the proposed $55 million redevelopment of the long-vacant Court Square hotel building in downtown Springfield as part of an obligation to build housing within a half- mile of its resort casino.
Seth Stratton, MGM Springfield Vice President and legal counsel, told the regulators at a meeting in Boston that after a year of due diligence, MGM officials believe the complicated project will likely succeed.
"This is very likely to happen and we are comfortable committing to the project at this stage," said Stratton.
The commission had given MGM until Thursday’s meeting to either commit to the Court Square project (also referred to as 31 Elm Street) or identify another plan for developing housing in downtown Springfield.
"We at MGM are comfortable indicating that the 31 Elm residential development project is our final committment for residential development in downtown Springfield, " Stratton told the casino industry regulators.
A group that is proposing to redevelop the historic building has said MGM’s planned $11 million investment is a key part of the project’s financing
At a meeting of the Springfield City Council’s Casino Oversight Committee on February 25th, Michael O’Brien of Boston-based WinnCompanies, said the group was working to secure the final 10 percent of the money that would allow the project to happen.
WinnCompanies is the co-developer with Opal Real Estate of Springfield.
The project envisions about 60 apartments that would be rented at market-rates and 14 that would be available at reduced prices for tenants whose income is 80 percent of the region’s median income.
Under the terms of its host community agreement with Springfield and its casino license with Massachusetts, MGM is required to build at least 54 market-rate apartments. MGM has received several deadline extensions from the city and the state to meet its obligation.
MGM's annoucement Thursday was greeted warmly by the gaming commission.
Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, a former city councilor in Springfield, said redeveloping the derelict six-story Court Square building has been a cherished, but elusive, goal for decades.
"It is still a little early to blow the trumpets and horns," said Stebbins.
Built in 1892, the historic building has gone through several transformations and interior renovations. After the hotel closed in the 1950s, it was used as an office building.
It has been mostly vacant for the last 30 years.
The Springfield Redevelopment Authority took ownership of the building in 2009.