LISTEN TO THE ORIGINAL STORY BY PAUL TUTHILL HERE.
The redevelopment of an historic block in the largest city in western Massachusetts has moved a step closer.
The Springfield City Council approved using $4 million in city funds for the restoration and redevelopment of the former Court Square Hotel building. Additionally, councilors unanimously ratified MGM’s plans for a $16 million investment in the project as a way to satisfy an obligation to build housing near the downtown casino.
These funds are the final pieces for a $52 million effort to redevelop the long-derelict six-story block-long building at 13-31 Elm Street into 74 residential apartments with ground floor space for retail.
City Councilor Mike Fenton, who chairs the Casino Oversight Committee, said a public private partnership had come together after about a year of negotiations to pull off something that had confounded developers for decades.
"This is a really historic night for the city of Springfield," said Fenton, who went on to thank all the people involved with the project for their perserverance.
Opal Real Estate of Springfield and Winn Companies of Boston are the co-developers of the project. In addition to the money from the city and MGM, MassHousing has committed $14 million and there will be $11 million in federal and state historic tax credits.
Mike O’Brien of Winn said there are nine public and private entities putting funds into the project.
"The cooperative funding agreement is in the final stages of execution and everyone is committed to funding this," said O'Brien.
One-by-one councilors praised the project. City Councilor Jesse Lederman said it was key to bringing energy and vibrancy back to downtown.
"This is one of the biggest and most key pieces of development downtown, " said Lederman.
The construction work will be done under what is known as a project labor agreement, where the general contractor agrees to hire union tradespeople.
Dozens of union construction workers packed the council chambers ahead of the vote. Charles Payne, a business agent with the carpenters union, said the project will bring a lot of badly needed jobs.
"This is really important. The timing could'nt be better," said Payne. " This is really important to the families of this city."
O’Brien said construction work could begin this fall with a projected two-year completion time.