SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – In a unanimous vote, Monday night, Springfield City Councilors approved the sale of the former Zanetti School and the Armory building to Blue Tarp ReDevelopment.
The sale will close by July 31st, three months before Massachusetts voters head to the polls for the casino referendum.
Three years ago, the June 1st tornado destroyed these properties on Howard Street. City Solicitor Ed Pikula said MGM will pay $3.2 million for the buildings, plus about $160,000 in lieu of property taxes. MGM’s plan calls for keeping the facade of the Armory and demolishing the school.
City Councilor Tim Allen said “Substantial money for the city, and MGM owns the buildings regardless of whether the referendum passes or not.” Welcome news for people who support the casino, that could generate about $25 million a year for Springfield.
Rocky Thompson is part of Carpenters Local 108. He told 22News, “It’s a huge job creator. We desperately need jobs in the city. The citizens of Springfield voted in the affirmative for this project, so what happened to that?”
City Councilor Tim Rooke told 22News Monday’s vote is a step forward. But the city should still prepare for the repeal possibility. He said, “You can’t count the money you don’t have. We should be asking that college students be located downtown. We should be offering tax incentives to restaurants and businesses and make Springfield a vibrant community.”
MGM Spokeswoman Carole Brennan told 22News if voters repeal the gambling law, MGM will then try to sell the buildings it owns. But MGM will not close on most buildings until after the referendum.
She told 22News in a statement:
“When MGM acquires a title to a parcel, it begins to pay property taxes just like any other landowner. We’re not closing on the majority of the parcels on the site until the repeal issue is resolved in November. If the law is overturned, MGM would market its ownership parcels to a developer for an alternate use.”
Separate from the Howard St. building sale is an annual payment MGM has promised to make if they open a casino in Springfield. That’s about $17 million a year, in lieu of property taxes for all of MGM’s buildings.
“Under our 121A commitment, as outlined in the HCA, our formal payments commence with the opening of the MGM Springfield resort. However, during development, the City will receive, also per the HCA, millions of dollars in 121A ‘pre-payments’ along with other upfront public safety and community development payments. The total of about $17.6 million in annual 121A payments is in lieu of property taxes. The site currently generates a total of $634,000 annually in property taxes for the City.”