Market-Rate Housing Remains An Unfulfilled Promise Made By MGM

Mar 12, 2019

The MGM Springfield casino has been up and running now for more than six months. The Republican assigned three reporters to explore whether MGM has kept the promises it made to city and state officials. 

I sat down with one of those reporters, Peter Goonan, and asked him where MGM stands.

Peter Goonan, The RepublicanYes, they're carefully and closely monitored by city officials and the state gaming commission, and that includes quarterly reports and continuous meetings with the gaming commission.

The host-community agreement is their requirement. It does get amended, at times. But the city officials we spoke to — and backed up with MGM information — is that they're almost entirely up to date on meeting their promises to the city and state.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: There were some promises you found that they met hands down — like in business utilization — that they are providing their statistical reports to the city. But there are other promises in the host-community agreement that were not so clearly documented, and therefore maybe not met. Could you walk me through the status of some of the, let's say, displaced tenants relocation? That wasn't clearly met — in your reporting.

That was difficult to follow. In checking with MGM, it was a bit unclear.

There was a requirement to assist tenants that were in the path of the casino with relocation costs. And they did provide substantial sums of funds to assist some with relocation. But the documentation on that, I recall — another reporter handled that part of it — was not clear, to my knowledge. And we will follow up on that to find out what did happen with all these tenants.

Some of them closed up and didn't reopen. And one well-known tenant is right in the midst of them, and that's Red Rose, and they are doing quite well.

The original entrance to Red Rose Pizzeria in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Credit Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

There are some promises set forth by MGM that they have not yet met. Are they working on filling some of those promises — and what are they?

Yes, they are. A good example would be: there's a pledge to provide a minimum of 54 units of market-rate housing in the general downtown area, and they have not met that commitment yet, and the deadline for that has been extended. And the city officials, including Mayor Sarno and the [Springfield] City Council, have wanted MGM to hold off on construction of these market-rate apartments, because they want the apartments to go to the Elm Street block — which has been vacant for over two decades, or mostly vacant — and that is their hope, that MGM can help make that private development project a reality.

And MGM has said that they're willing to contribute $11 million toward that project as part of their commitment for market-rate housing.

So the gaming commission is on board, the city officials are on board, for that to eventually be met, providing market-rate housing, but to try the best they can to have it happen at Court Square, the Elm Street block.

Inside the vacant Elm Street block in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Credit Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

But negotiations are ongoing.

Yes.

Is there a Plan B?

They say that they'll be ready to provide the gaming commission with their plan B — that they're looking at different options. They just say that they'll be ready when the "do or die" on the Elm Street block happens.

The original host-community agreement was over 54 pages long of legal-speak. How did you pull out certain parts of it to decide to write these pretty all-encompassing articles?

Well, thank you. We we did look through the entire host-community agreement.

Some of them are extremely well-known by the public and the media, and others are not so clear. But we tried to pick and choose the ones that we thought would be of most interest, or most relevance, to the readers of MassLive and to the Republican.

Disclosure: MGM has purchased underwriting from New England Public Radio publicizing the company's non-gambling activities. The NEPR newsroom operates independently of the station's development department, and editorial decisions are made without regard to any funding relationships.