Wynn Everett officials indicated last week that they will start construction on the $1.7 billion destination casino this May, and hope to take out their first building permit from Everett in the next two weeks – a milestone that triggers major mitigation money for the City.
“We’re shooting for May to start construction,” said Chris Gordon of Wynn. “We would hope in the next few weeks to get the foundation permit. The City has it under review right now. Once we have that permit, we can start putting in the foundation and performing the remediation of those soils…The first thing people will see is excavation equipment and then a slurry plant being built. For the first six months, it will be working below grade. You might drive by and not know the work is going on.”
By next fall, it is expected that work will begin above grade with steel coming up.
A colossal groundbreaking ceremony is tentatively planned for this May.
Right now, Gordon said they are wrapping up their permitting stage, with a Chapter 91 Waterways permit draft coming out last Friday. There will be a 21-day review of that and it is expected to be approved in April.
Also, Section 61 findings – which are the suggestions of various state agencies – are expected in April. Already, the MWRA and MassPort have adopted findings. What are left are the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Gaming Commission (MGC).
“The critical path to starting construction is getting all that done,” Gordon said.
The City is currently reviewing the project with the California-based company 4 Leaf.
Once the foundation permit is issued, that first casino building permit would trigger the first mitigation payment for the City.
According to the Host Community Agreement, the first building permit taken from the City will unlock $5 million of the $30 million up-front payment.
“I am very excited about that milestone,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “That will unlock the first part of our $30 million up-front mitigation payment. We’ll get $5 million at the first permit. That total $30 million payment will come in and go into our Stabilization Fund, which will be great for our bond rating and our capital improvement planning. I see that money improving the transit system so people can get to Boston other than by bus and also I see it increasing property values. It will clear up blighted areas and lower residential and commercial tax rates. It’s not just Wynn, but the whole area.”
Two other payments for the up-front mitigation package will also be made as the project progresses. A payment of $12.5 million will come after the first year of construction and the final $12.5 million will come on the completion of the project.
Gordon said that soon after the foundation permit, they expect to get the tower permit. The construction is divided into three portions, including the foundation/parking garage, the tower (floors 4-25) and the podium, which is the first three floors and contains the casino/retail/amenities/ lobby area.
Last week, Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio announced that Boston-based Suffolk Construction had won the general contracting bid. Right now, Suffolk is on site and conducting a cost estimate. A second company working for Wynn, Vermeulen of Canada, is conducting an alternate cost estimate.
“We always have an independent estimate so we know what we think it costs,” said Gordon. “Then, when both are done, we do a reconciliation. When you’re done with all that, you have a very accurate idea of the exact cost.”
The estimates for cost are due in February.
For some time, the cost has been $1.7 billion, and DeSalvio and Gordon told the MGC last Thursday that they don’t expect that number to inflate due to the time that has gone by.
“We don’t expect to see the prices going up or down,” said Gordon. “We track that carefully. We have really built that in.”
Finally, Gordon told the MGC that they would also like to begin construction on the service road adjacent to the MBTA property in May. He said it is a critical piece of the project as it will be the conduit that brings in all the utilities to the site.
“It’s more than a road,” he said. “Most of our utilities are housed under that road. We’re looking at a May start on that, but hoping for a start in April.”
For Mayor DeMaria, the milestone is about validation – not just of the casino project and its skeptics, but also about his vision for Everett being better.
“I gave a speech for the first time on this at a Chamber breakfast and they thought I was crazy, some pie in the sky idea,” he said. “I just knew Everett could do better. Look at Cambridge, Charlestown and the South End. These places were way worse than Everett in the past. We worked on the Lower Broadway plan for one or two years. I looked at that area and felt we had to develop it. We are closer to downtown Boston than 70 percent of Boston. In that plan, residents wanted a marina, water taxis and a hotel. That came up at the meetings…For me, I’m not just talking about one hotel. I’m hoping he buys the MBTA building and the T wakes up and sells that underutilized property…Before you know it, we’ve created a business center, a hotel center, and an entertainment center. It’s not just Wynn Development, but so much more. That’s my vision.”