Board Members Not Present (3): Elizabeth Stevens, (Treas), Corey Singleton (Asst Treasurer), Ed Kelly
Neighborhood Members:Ray Jordan, Michael Stevens, Mark Healy, Nikki Johnson, Roderick Shubrick, Marvenia Shubrick, Stephen White
Guests: MGM and Penn National Representatives, approximately 12.
Welcome by Walter K; board member introductions; audience introductions.
oWalter K introduced representatives from MGM and Penn National who were present togive details of their casino proposals for Springfield.
oWalter K gave a brief history of the McKnight neighborhood and explained that the board was specifically interested in understanding the impacts of a casino on the neighborhood itself, as well as the consequences, intended and unintended, that may affect quality of life in the city.
oTen minute opening presentations were given by each group, followed by a list of questions developed prior to the meeting by the board of directors, and concluding with an open question and answer session from the board.
oPenn National Summary:
·Operates 29 facilities in 19 jurisdictions, and is the largest gaming operator in the US.
·Has opened 6 casinos in the last 5 years, 3 in the last 12 months in cities similar to Springfield, including Toledo; Ohio, Columbus, Ohio; and Kansas City, KS.
·Largest initial benefit is “the ripple effect”—the casino site in the North End leads to the positive relocation of the Springfield Republican and Peter Pan Bus Lines.
·In the immediate future this will simultaneously create and/or contribute to 4 construction projects for the city, the casino facility itself, the relocation of Peter Pan Bus Service (to Union Station), a new printing plant facility for the newspaper (relocating to an industrial park along 291), and finally the relocation of the administrative support personnel for the Republican to downtown Tower Square, into a renovated 21st century village mall setting.
·Penn will be investing as well in the build out of Union Station, where Peter Pan is relocating, and Penn will lease office space there for their own administrative personnel.Additionally, the Peter Pan 150 administrative personnel will be relocating to 31 Elm Street.
·Penn will be renovating the Paramount theatre, and the adjacent retail storefront along Main Street, to help engender pedestrian activity and improvements all the way to the heart of downtown at Tower Square.
·In past 3 projects similar to Springfield, 90% of hires were local; all three projects were Union; on the building side they were the largest minority, local and woman owned projects in the history of Toledo and Kansas City.Commitment to do the same in Springfield.
·MGM is a Fortune 500 global company, operating facilities around the world.
·Their project will provide 3,000 permanent jobs, and 2,000 construction jobs; they employ 62,000 people worldwide.
·The strength of their project lies in the “inside-out” design, which is something they have not done before.Instead of containing retail and restaurant trade inside the confines of their casino facility, they are planning to integrate local and retail vendors in their overall design for the South end site.
·Project includes a 290 room hotel; casino and gaming area will connect directly to the Mass Mutual center.Will include retail and restaurant space, and 50-60 market rate condos in the building above that space.Parking garage with 4,000 spaces will be free during the week.
·Only 38% of MGM’s revenue comes from gaming, the rest comes from retail, restaurant, and entertainment.
·Retail and restaurant space designed to be free and open to all, not just casino clientele.Will host free events in the summer.
·Will help improve the river front by bringing back the trees, installing a fountain and interactive park for children,including an ice skating rink; install a movie screen for which MGM will fund free movies in the summer; and are investigating funding a boat house on the river.
Casino Questions Developed by Council
1.Many people may not be into gaming. How is your casino plan going to improve MY quality of life here in McKnight and in the city of Springfield?
·PENN:Whether you are interested in gaming or not, the progressive revitalization of the city from the North End to Tower Square will bring an aesthetic and economic improvement which will benefit the entire city.The entertainment venue at the Paramount along with the street level retail and restaurant space, along with improved lighting and landscaping, will increase pedestrian activity.Greater activity and more people will increase the perception of safety in the downtown. Our site offers easy in and out access to Springfield, and we will be providing trolley service which will take visitors around the city to showcase the many existing assets that Springfield has, such as the Basketball Hall of Fame.
·MGM:What makes MGM special is that they are not just a casino; they are an entertainment and hospitality company.Quality of life will be improved by the jobs they bring.Will be leasing space at Union Station for a regional headquarters in the East, and providing a robust jobs training program there.Will be promoting restaurant, entertainment, and retail activity in the planned space outside the casino for those who do not gamble.Highest priority is making people feel safe in the blocks around their casino.Will be spending a lot of money on lighting and parking security; will be encouraging the City to use gambling revenues for police support and presence.
2.Traffic is a significant concern in the city. McKnight is already a cut over for folks who work downtown, accessing off 291 across St James, and down State St. Please explain how your traffic plan is going to prevent the additional traffic from becoming another quality of life issue. MGM, I noticed your traffic plan was not public. Why not?
·MGM:Based on models, do not expect it to impact the McKnight District.Increase of 35-40 cars at peak hours coming down Wilbraham Rd, State Street, and St James Avenue.Engineers are working on the overall traffic situation and will be glad to answer questions about specific roads.
·PENN: Detailed study on their website—anticipate 40% of casino traffic coming in from the South, 35% from 91 North, 15% from 291 and points east, 10% local traffic.Will be making improvements at 11 intersections which will be north of the McKnight District.Studies at Chestnut and Dwight indicate an increase of 15 to 20% at peak hours.Due to the site’s strategic position at 91 and 291, the desired increases in traffic and activity into the city and all of downtown are easily integrated.
3.McKnight has a culture of historic preservation, home ownership, and spurring youth development. How does your development plan consider the value of historical buildings located in your proposed footprint?(How many historic buildings will have to be removed in order to make way for your project?)
·PENN:Along with the overall Hollywood theme of the Penn casino, they will be bringing back the Paramount in same the Art Deco genre of yesteryear.One of their proposal’s strong points is that it will not compromise any of Springfield’s important historical assets.
·MGM:They originally had plans for 3 of the historical buildings—the old Mass Mutual building, which they plan to restore inside and out;an old hotel on State Street, which they will restore and wrap the casino around to showcase;and the South End Armory building will be lighted and showcased as part of the outdoor space.They will be removing Bliss and Howard Streets to build the casino on, but they are planning on finding a way to recognize the history of these streets.The site selection affects 10-14 historical building overall, which they are still reviewing with the historical commission.Historical businesses, such as Red Rose, La Fiorentino, Frigo’s and Langone’s will remain independent and be business vendors used by the casino in different capacities.They are committed to helping other businesses grow and have created a loan fund to assist them in making improvements.
4.Is your company a financially viable entity able to carry out the plan as you’ve outlined?
·MGM:MGM can write a check right now
·PENN:Penn can also do so, and is one the most financially solvent gaming companies in the industry.Their last three projects, each between 300 and 400 million, were all done on time and under budget.They consider themselves a disciplined company who delivers as promised, which an examination of their relationships in other projects will demonstrate.
5.The McKnight Council has worked hard in developing a partnership with the police department, a strong neighborhood watch, and executing initiatives in helping to reduce crime in our neighborhood. A major concern is that crime will go up on the periphery of the city in order for hardcore gamblers to get money to play with. Please disprove this with a proof or a case study from a prior casino you’ve developed in a similar city to Springfield.
PENN:Penn has a 6 million dollar security budget, and a security and surveillance staff of 150 employees to monitor the activity inside the casino and in the blocks surrounding the area.Their goal is not to be a burden or a drain on local police services.A study of statistics in Toledo, Columbus, and Kansas City will indicate that local crime has not risen in the months following the opening of their casinos.Rarely do local police need to intervene.Additionally, when Penn sponsors large entertainment events which require local police support, they partner with the City to pay officers for their overtime.Crime rates actually tend to go down in these markets because the casino helps to drive up employment rates and solving part of the underlying problem of unemployment that influences the crime rate.Plus the revenues that Penn will be paying to the City will significantly improve police resources to address crime throughout the city.
MGM:The casino itself will have the security to be one of the safest places in North America, but MGM realizes that the entire city must be safe or no one will come.They have met extensively with the Springfield police department and received their endorsement as being the best choice as a casino operator.MGM believes the police department can make the city safe if they have enough resources.
6.What is your plan to help keep neighborhoods like McKnight safe once your casino is in operation? Will you pledge to have initiatives for safe neighborhoods?
·MGM:Wherever MGM sets up shop, their employees (which would be 3000 in Springfield), engage in outreach with neighborhoods and agencies in volunteer capacities.Their partnerships with social service agencies, fire, and police will improve safety as a whole.Their employees also volunteer as mentors in education and in working with the homeless.
·PENN: Penn works locally with economic development organizations to strategize and strengthen infrastructure and with community organizations to target specific needs, so that the money stays local.
7.The McKnight Council is always working diligently on community development projects that will add value for its residents, increase home values, and increase the quality of life through the city. One such project is the McKnight Rail Trail which would convert and abandoned rail line into a linear hiking and biking trail. If we secure the consent of the Mayor and if made part of the cities host agreement, would you support the McKnight Rail Trail project?
PENN:Yes, if it is part of the host agreement.Penn is optimistic about seeing the gaming revenues benefit individual neighborhoods, and has received several requests from different neighborhoods.Ultimately, of course it is the City’s decision about what priorities they assign to the use of the revenues.
MGM:If the Mayor agrees, absolutely.
8.Employing local people and businesses that keeps money in the community is a concern when considering a large enterprise not located in our region. Will you be using local vendors/partners in the operation? Please talk about how you’re going to NOT bring people in from far away, but rather employ local people and use local vendor partnerships. What percentage of local jobs will you guarantee?
MGM:MGM has made a commitment to give first choice for the 3,000 jobs to Springfield residents.MGM will be partnering with the Massachusetts Gaming Institute, a consortium of community colleges, Future Works, UMass, and others to help develop a curriculum. Will partner with AIC for a program in financial literacy and gaming studies.Have invited local businesses to be preferred vendors, and is committed to local partnerships.They are willing to teach businesses how MGM does it and take them under their umbrella.Their research indicates that there is not the capacity in Springfield to fill 3,000 jobs, but they are willing to work with local agencies to build the capacity through training programs—therefore, they are unable to give a percentage of local hire at this time.
PENN:Their commitment is 90% local hires, which they have fulfilled in Toledo, Columbus, and Kansas City.They use two approaches, working through the community colleges, and apprenticeship programs through the Unions to help people transition into their operation.Penn also works with agencies to help people acquire the math and reading skills they need in order to enter the Union apprenticeship programs.They successfully run reverse local vendor fairs, where they showcase their needs, and local vendors can come to seek partnerships and contracts.Their practice, and their goal, is to do it right, and do it local.
General Questions from the Board
Lloyd C:Do CORI requirements apply to casino workers?
MGM:Some require stringent background checks, many others do not.MGM has written the Gaming Commission to request the relaxing of some of the requirements in non-sensitive positions.Also, some positions require a clean credit record in order to work with money, so they are advising agencies to have people get on top of that now, so they are hirable when the casino opens.
Brandi G:How far down in the South End does the casino extend?
MGM:It ends at Union Street, but the loan program to improve architecture in the area will extend further, and they are anticipating local businesses will take advantage of it to improve their buildings.
Brandi G:What will happen to the residential properties in the area?
MGM:They are hoping they will stay and improve.
Elizabeth L:MGM, you mentioned you were restoring 3 historic properties in the affected area?What about the other 10 properties, including the old Spiritualist Church on Bliss Street?Are you planning on just razing the other properties, or moving them?
MGM:It is on a case by case basis, they are going to relocate the Spiritualist Church—they are working on this with the Historical Commission to do their best in regard to the other properties.
Synthia M:Will you be working with agencies throughout the city on education and training?
MGM and PENN:Yes
Ceil L:I had an experience moving a bridal shop business downtown years ago, and when Baystate West opened all the other shops closed up.And now Baystate West is empty.How will this be different?
MGM:MGM believes the significant investment and the new vitality that the casino will bring will generate a successful business and entertainment environment in the downtown space.The fact that they are developing a residential component is testimony to their belief that people will want to live and work downtown.
PENN:Penn believes that the immediate impact of the Republican’s move to downtown center into a new 21st century village mall setting which will include retail space, free wi-fi, and a video studio, will begin reinvigorating the area, and this will be an immediate payoff, not a speculative one.This along with the other 3 projects which will happen simultaneously so that the casino site prep can begin. None of these projects are speculative, and Penn has the proven track record in executing and completing their projects.
Ben S:What impact will this have on entertainment venues in the region?
MGM:MGM’s entertainment portfolio includes big name entertainers that they will leverage into coming to Springfield.This will help City Stage and Symphony Hall, and the Civic Center.They will not be competing, but filling these venues to capacity with the acts they bring to town.This is the only MGM facility in the world in which they not including an entertainment venue.They are doing this to help Springfield, and break the dead lock that Mohegan Sun has put on the area.
PENN:They are excited about bringing the Paramount back, it seats 2500 to 3000.Their plan is to be complimentary and not competitive with the other venues in Springfield.They will sit down twice a year to cross check their programs with these venues to insure their contributions do no compete but partner to broaden the variety of entertainment that is available in Springfield.Their sports bar will have live entertainment, but again it will be cross-checked with local clubs and venues.They will be supporting the local Falcons, and the Mass Mutual Center, with ticket block commitments.They want to be viewed as one more offering in the City, and not overtake the fundamental character of the community, but rather enrich it.
Brandi G:How is this going to affect real estate taxes?Will they go up, down, stay the same?
MGM and PENN:Depends on the City government, and how they use the increased tax revenues from the casinos.
Llyod C:I have been to several cities where the casino districts are all beautiful with bright lights but yet a few blocks away they will be surrounded by boarded up houses and destitute people.How will this be different?
Elizabeth L:I would like to expand that question, which is a good one.Have either of you ever put casinos in an area with demographics like we have here?From the South End to the North End you have properties filled with Section 8 housing, so you have a whole community and culture of poor people.In addition, Springfield is the center for homeless people in western Massachusetts because services are here.So the homeless come to get services, but the homeless congregate where there is activity.And better or worse, no matter how dead you think downtown Springfield is, it is loaded with homeless people, because that is one of the few places they can go because it is public and there is activity.So MGM is saying you have a whole residential component, and Penn is talking about the ripple effect—where do you anticipate these people are going to go?
PENN:They have a similar demographic in Toledo.Their experience is that it not what a single casino operator can do—it is dependent on coming together with the City officials, city government and the neighborhoods to solve these problems.Atlantic City is an example of an abysmal failure in this respect, with potholes in the street, dozens of homeless shelters and nothing’s been done for 35 years.They bring in $200 million a year in tax revenues and have done nothing.So casinos are not a panacea.It takes working together, it takes the type of partnership to which Penn has been committed in their other markets and will be in Springfield.So yes Penn has the experience, but that experience indicates everyone must all work together.It is not just what they decide to do, but what the City decides to do with its revenue.
MGM:MGMdoes not havethe experience of putting in a casino on a main street.They hope to see gentrification occur, but hopefully because those people get jobs, not because it becomes too expensive to live there.Urban planning is a huge part of this, but they believe if you put in a casino that is designed to keep people inside, and not let them out until they get back on the highway it will have a negative impact on the community.They believe if you build a casino with everything facing out, that it will catalyze the potential that this main street has and benefit everyone.
Jesse L:Do you displace residents in any way and if so what is your plan for them?
MGM:MGM will displace a couple of apartments.No plan yet, will get back to you with information.They will displace a lot of businesses, a lot of lawyer’s offices but MGM has funds to help them relocate and deal with leases.Their hope is these businesses will go across the street and lease all the vacant offices there.
PENN:No, only the businesses which will be relocating, the Republican and Peter Pan.
Conclusion and thanks by Walter K.
SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Jesse Lederman)
Secretary Jesse L submitted the minutes of the Board Meeting January 08, 2012, for acceptance. Call for corrections or additions.
MOTION: (LC moved) to accept as presented; (JL seconded); (WK called 😉 Unanimous vote.
TREASURER’S REPORT: (Elizabeth Stevens)
Liz S, absent.
MOTION: (BS moved) to table treasurer’s report; (DJ seconded); (WK called 😉 Unanimous vote.