SPRINGFIELD – Part of the question of where MGM would relocate its 54 apartments from its casino campus was answered Oct. 5 when MGM Resorts President William Hornbuckle told reporters the company will be buying the former School department building at 195 State St.
The historic building, built in 1905, had been sold to developer David Nyborg in 2011 for $1 for redevelopment to apartments. The city’s Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said the city, which is pursuing court action against Nyborg and an injunction prohibiting the sale of the building, would be taking the legal steps to facilitate the sale.
Hornbuckle said MGM will pursue the development of 30 to 35 apartments “as fast the process allows” and expects it will be completed before the opening of the casino in the fall of 2018.
Davenport Advisors, a Boston-based company, will handle the development, permitting and managment of the building.
Hornbuckle said he had toured two other buildings downtown as potential locations from the remaining apartments and Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, confirmed the gaming company is still considering the 31 Elm St. building.
Hornbuckle came to Springfield to assure Mayor Domenic Sarno and the City Council that MGM’s commitment to Springfield has not changed “one iota.”
He said so far the company has invested $250 million in the effort to bring a casino to Massachusetts.
“We are going nowhere,” he said.
He did admit the company “stumbled” on time frame for the project, the statewide referendum and on the viaduct, but called these impediments challenges they have overcome.
Hornbuckle admitted being disappointed the Springfield casino will not have a 25-floor glass tower hotel but said the new six-story design with its entrance on Main Street might be more of an advantage for other businesses than it will be for MGM.
Sarno said he asked Hornbuckle to fly in from Las Vegas, NV, to address the issues the came out of the announcement about the changes. He confirmed Gov. Charlie Baker made a call to Hornbuckle during their meeting to speak about the company’s commitment to the city and project.
Hornbuckle said the company wants to move forward with the casino project. “We are itching to go as time is money,” he said.
Speaking about the efforts in Connecticut to develop a casino close to the Massachusetts border, Hornbuckle said he couldn’t comment much as litigation is pending, but he did call process in that state “unconstitutional.”
He added those developments had nothing to do with any decisions made about the design of the Springfield project.
State line competition is nothing new to Hornbuckle. He explained the company has been operating a casino in Detroit, MI, and rival gaming companies built facilities nearby in Ohio. He said he encourages competition.
When asked by Dan D’Alma, the president of the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council, if the apartment developments would be covered by the project labor agreement already arranged for the casino, Hornbuckle said, “That is to be determined.”
D’Alma later said that while he has come concerns about the agreement, he said he was “feeling pretty confident they would meet their commitments.”
Carol Costa, who lives next door at Classical Condos and is the president of the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association, told Reminder Publications, “I think this is all good for the neighborhood.” She added more housing would add greater “stability” to the area.