Wynn Just Bought a Bunch More Land in Everett and You Have to Wonder Why

Friday, August 26, 2016

At some point this past spring, casino mogul Steve Wynn acquired the weed-choked old General Electric property in Everett for an undisclosed sum and an undisclosed purpose.  I’m surprised this move has received so little attention.  

Robert DeSalvio, the person overseeing development of the “Wynn Boston Harbor” casino on the  former Monsanto chemical factory site in Everett, was quoted as saying, “Wynn Resorts supports the city’s vision of the former GE site to further advance the renaissance of Everett.  We look forward to working with the city’s planners in helping to transform this now vacant lot into a more productive use.”
It was revealed at that time that Wynn would be donating three acres of the GE parcel to the city for use as a new park.

Back in the spring, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria was as vague as DeSalvio about the future of the GE site, which comprises at least 40 acres along the banks of the Malden River and has sat, wretched and unused, for more than 20 years.  (I don't know for sure how far the GE site is from the Monsanto site, but it's got to be less than half a mile.)
Immediately, I thought they all must be planning something bigger for the property than a parking lot for casino employees and a warehouse for casino and hotel supplies. 

“Wynn does now own the GE site,” DeMaria confirmed in an interview with a local newspaper.  “We’ve hired Redgate Real Estate Advisors to help us do some development planning down at the GE site.  They are planning to help us with some ideas on how to develop that area…We want to get a pedestrian footbridge down there connecting us to Wellington Station.  That change would really drive property values up off of the Main Street area…”
By the way, DeMaria’s political stock, now that the City of Somerville’s attempt to block the casino has been thwarted, has never been higher.  DeMaria’s improbable-from-the-start, highly difficult, tortuous, multi-year campaign to bring the casino and all its related financial benefits to Everett has ended in a smashing victory.  If Wynn & Co. delivers on everything they’ve promised over the next decades, DeMaria will go down as the most successful mayor in the history of his long-under-appreciated city. 

With offices in Boston and Baltimore, Redgate describes itself as “a strategic real estate investment, development, project management and advisory firm.”  On its website, Redgate says, “We listen to our clients, collectively develop a strategy, and follow with a crafted delivery method to satisfy every client.  We design clear communication protocols from the moment of engagement to facilitate dialogues and foster and mobilize consensus.  We deliver a financially feasible strategy and an implementation plan for each client we serve, reducing risk and extracting the best value.”  Greg Bialecki, who served as Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in the Governor Deval Patrick administration, is a member of Redgate’s management team.
Redgate’s involvement leads one to infer that the GE site redevelopment may consist of a new office park or apartment complex, with Wynn taking on the role of bankroller/lead developer and maybe using part of the land for a casino back office and supply depot.

(The deal for the GE site, significantly, is enabling Wynn to complete the purchase from the City of Everett of the Line Park on Lower Broadway/Route 99.  The traffic mitigation plan for the casino calls for Wynn to build a ramp off the northbound side of Route 99, which will lead to a new flyover that will take traffic directly to the casino on the other side of the road.  With the flyover, persons travelling north will not have to stop at a light and wait for a signal to turn green before proceeding to the casino.  Parkland may be taken for such a purpose in Massachusetts but must be replaced somewhere else in the jurisdiction.)
I can’t help but think that Wynn is up to something bold and unexpected.  His track record points in that direction.  He could, for example, be planning a golf course.  The site could accommodate a par-three 18-hole course or a normal-size 9-hole course.  If he were to acquire some of the contiguous properties, which include a large vacant lot now owned by a utility and rented to a bus and limo transport company, Wynn could potentially build 18 holes of more or less regular size.

At the Monsanto site, Wynn is building, at a total projected cost of $2 billion-plus, what he has always referred to as a five-star resort casino.  We know he prefers to include golf courses in his resorts.  Not too long ago, he spared no expense to create a plush-green, tree-lined golf course, with an eye-popping waterfall, in the desert beside his new casino on the Las Vegas strip.  To design that course, he turned to Tom Fazio, dubbed by Golf Digest magazine “the country’s preeminent modern-day designer.”   
Of the casino in Everett, Wynn recently said, “The hotel we’re building in Boston is a destination – not a box of slots in a regional casino, but an addition to a city that makes people want to go there and vacation.”  Many vacationers, especially the gambling kind, love to golf.

The GE site is not adjacent to the Mosanto site; however, both are on the water, the inner part of Boston Harbor, and one can travel by boat between them in less than five minutes.
There’s another reason I believe we could see a golf course on the Malden River one day.  A person I know was told by Mayor DeMaria that Wynn was considering, not long ago, the purchase of an industrial site in Everett because he wanted to put a golf course on it.  This site is on the opposite side of Route 99 from the casino, meaning it would not be easy to drive there, but it does have water access and would have been a two-minute boat ride from the casino dock.

People in Everett are now saying how the GE site and the area around it will be “totally different in five years.”  Don’t be surprised if “the renaissance of Everett” features the occasional golf ball flying into the street.   




There's a Way to Keep Horse Racing Alive and Help Our Economy and Environment

Friday, August 19, 2016

I never liked the idea of turning the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston and Revere into a resort casino.  Being from Revere, I feel strongly that there are better uses for that property than gambling.  The city and its people will be better off if their future is not chained to a casino.    

I can see a beautiful housing development arising one day on the  old Suffolk Downs, a project that capitalizes on the site’s two abutting Blue Line train stations and its proximity to Revere Beach, the first public beach in the nation and still one of the best and safest natural beaches in the U.S. 
Except for one thing, I was not sorry when the Gaming (Gambling) Commission rejected the Suffolk Downs casino bid and gave the Eastern Massachusetts casino license instead to Steve Wynn, whose team is now building their casino in Everett, a few miles from the all-but-dead racetrack.

That one thing would be horses and horse farms.  More precisely, I’m talking about the preservation of open spaces and farmland.
There are more than a thousand farms, out of nearly 8,000 farms overall in Massachusetts, devoted to the breeding and care of horses. 

During the years it was striving to secure a casino license, Suffolk Downs constantly pointed to the value of these horse farms, job-wise and economic-impact-wise.  It warned of dire consequences for these farms if it did not get the casino license and had to close the track.  There was only a little hype in those warnings.
Now comes the University of Massachusetts to tell us there’s a way to reinvent horse racing in the Bay State and keep those horse farms, which represent 30 percent of all the agricultural land in the Commonwealth, from becoming house lots, apartment complexes, office parks, strip malls and the like.

Last month, the Center for Economic Development, part of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the UMass, Amherst, released a study proposing the creation of a horse park on approximately 150 acres in some rural or suburban part of the state with good access to the kinds of roads that would make it fairly easy for large numbers of persons to drive there.  Ten possible sites are identified in the study.
The horse park would feature a large track for thoroughbred horse racing, an equestrian center capable of hosting a variety of events, such as dressage competitions and hunting/jumping contests, and a retirement and retraining farm where up to 40 retired racehorses could be housed

“Thoroughbred racehorse breeding is an important component of the Massachusetts Equine Industry, whose vitality is directly tied to the availability of racing opportunities within the Commonwealth,” the study notes.

The new racetrack would account for $66.3 million in annual economic output and sales statewide, and support the creation of 664 full-time jobs, which would add roughly $38 million of labor income to Massachusetts households.
The study predicts that the equestrian center would generate $31.7 million in annual output and sales, and create 280 full-time jobs good for $14.5 million in household income.

Further, the study suggests that the retirement/retraining farm would become a significant tourist destination, requiring 11 full-time employees.  The total economic impact of this part of the horse park is estimated at $800,000 per year.
The three authors of the UMass study, who include two professors with doctorates, say the park could be developed at a total cost not likely to exceed $150 million.  They suggest paying for the park with loans backed by state's Race Horse Development Fund, made up of a small percentage of the proceeds from taxes on casino gambling.  The fund now holds close to $24 million, a sum that will fast grow larger when casinos under construction in Springfield and Everett open for business.  

In a world where some National Football League teams are said to be worth $2 billion, $150 million for a horse park hardly seems like a ridiculous or impossible dream.

The natural endowment of Massachusetts is beyond priceless.  The land itself has always been and will always be the most valuable thing in Massachusetts.  Unquestionably, the horse park would help to preserve that irreplaceable endowment, that incalculable value.  Our hope for its creation should be a fervent one.
The UMass study, “Towards the Creation of a Horse Park in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: A Feasibility Study,” may be found at:


Gun Manufacturing's Large Role in MA Economy Has Not Deterred AG Healey

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It was good, I guess, that the Massachusetts Medical Society weighed in Tuesday in favor of Attorney General Maura Healey’s actions strengthening the state ban on assault weapons by expressly having it cover an array of so-called “copycat” weapons.

It was good, too, that 19 mayors from across the state announced yesterday that they have put their support for the AG’s position on copycats in writing.
But I was sold on the idea July 20, the day Healey undertook this particular initiative, when I read that Boston Police Commissioner William Evans was in her corner. 

If the person ultimately responsible for protecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Bostonians and keeping the peace in our capital city thinks it’s a good idea to keep copycat assault rifles out of Massachusetts, that’s good enough for me.
No regulatory change, however, is ever likely to alter this strange fact of life: Massachusetts is hopelessly bifurcated on the issue of firearms.

We have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and some of the busiest, most profitable gun manufacturers in the nation.  We’re a liberal state delighted to supply conservative states with all the guns they want.
We who live under the Route 128 bubble too often forget that the making and the marketing of deadly weapons is a big, booming business in the Bay State.   

“The economy of Western Massachusetts and the entire Knowledge Corridor Region has been steeped in the production of firearms since 1777, when George Washington selected Springfield as the site of the nation’s first arsenal,” the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts proudly notes. 

Since that time, says the Council, “the area has spawned a number of arms manufacturers, accessory manufacturers and job shops to support the industry.  These major players within the world of firearms production, Smith & Wesson, Savage Arms, Ruger, Colt, Marlin & Mossberg, were not only an epicenter for innovation during the industrial revolution, but are still developing advanced manufacturing techniques today.”
According to a current year “State by State Economic Impact Report” from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the spectrum of gun manufacturing in Massachusetts accounts for 7,091 jobs. 

The total annual payroll for these jobs stands at $515,414,900, and the annual per-employee wage and benefit package averages $72,686, the NSSF reports. 
These are what Mike Dukakis was very fond of calling “good jobs with good wages.”

When she announced her crackdown on copycat assault rifles, the Attorney General, to her credit, was not looking over her shoulder at the gun industry’s half-a-billion-dollar Massachusetts payroll and the seven thousand Massachusetts families holding secure spots in the middle class because of the vigorous American trade in guns.

She was what John Kennedy, one of Dukakis’s heroes, would have called “a profile in courage.”

ADDENDUM, 9-13-16: I read a post on the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) blog yesterday about how AIM will be honoring 11 Massachusetts companies with its 2016 Next Century Awards over a five-week period beginning next Tuesday, Sept. 20.  Among those companies will be Smith & Wesson of Springfield.  The section of the post describing Smith & Wesson, its contributions to Western MA economy, and its philanthropic activities was informative and pertinent, so I decided to add it to the above post.  Here it is in its entirety:

Smith & Wesson has been a cornerstone of the Pioneer Valley manufacturing economy since Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson began to produce the Model 1 revolver in Springfield in 1856. The company’s storied history traces an arc from the old west to the Imperial Army of the Russian Tsar to outfitting thousands of laws enforcement officers in the United States and abroad.

But beyond its own success, Smith & Wesson has been a crucible of technology and skills that have fueled the development of a metal machining hub in western Massachusetts that now serves industries from aerospace to medical devices.

Smith & Wesson Corp. today is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of firearms. The company is expected to generate more than $900 million in annual sales in its current fiscal year.  It also employs more than 1,700 people, most at its sprawling manufacturing plant on Roosevelt Avenue.

Smith & Wesson has delivered tremendous organic and inorganic growth in firearms, and in 2010 moved 225 new jobs to Springfield as a result of its earlier acquisition of Thompson/Center Arms in New Hampshire.

In addition to growing its historical and sizeable firearms business, Smith & Wesson has recently expanded beyond firearms.  It acquired accessories maker Battenfeld Technologies in 2014, and in August of this year added Taylor Brands to its list of acquisitions.  Taylor is a designer and distributor of high-quality knives and specialty tools.

Then Smith & Wesson purchased a leader in laser sighting products, Crimson Trace.  Smith & Wesson paid $180 million in cash for both the Crimson Trace and Taylor acquisitions. 

In addition to Smith & Wesson’s rich legacy of supporting philanthropic efforts in the community throughout the decades, the company has more recently taken a visible role in addressing the critical shortage of trained machinists that is affecting all areas of Massachusetts. The Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center was created at Springfield Technical Community College to host STCC’s manufacturing and engineering technology programs, which prepare students for jobs in modern, computerized precision-machine shops.  It’s is just one of many programs that the company has supported to help deliver economic growth.

Among Smith & Wesson’s best known products over the years have been the .38 Military & Police Revolver, now known as the Model 10, a firearm that has been used extensively by police forces and has been in continuous production since 1899; the Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies; and the popular M&P line of polymer pistols and rifles.

Smith & Wesson Corp. is the main operating subsidiary of the publicly traded Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.



Blogster's Miscellany: From a Cape Cod Reef to Those Ever-Risky Backyards of MA

Friday, August 5, 2016

AS EXCITING AS LAWMAKING.  In March, federal funds and proceeds from the sale of state recreational saltwater fishing licenses were used to create an artificial reef in the Atlantic Ocean, two miles south of Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich.  The 9.9-acre reef is providing a breeding ground and habitat for black sea bass, scup, tautog, and various other marine organisms.  Departing from its usual fare, the State House News Service yesterday posted on its site a silent film of the reef, shot by a diver on June 15.  You can gather how my life is going by how I: (a) eagerly clicked on this video, and (b) proceeded to enjoy every moment of it.  So fascinating, so tasty, those little creatures of the deep.

IF CIGAR FLIES, YOU SHOULD TOO. Garrett Bradley, the longtime Hingham rep who has resigned from the legislature, effective August 1, to take on larger role at his law firm, was giving his farewell speech to the House on Saturday afternoon, July 30, when he offered a tip on the Speaker, Bob DeLeo, to the newer members of the House.  “The Speaker never smokes a cigar, he just chews on them,” Bradley related.  “If he’s just chewing, that’s good, but if he breaks it in half or throws it across the office, it’s time to go.”  Bradley, age 46, has been one of DeLeo’s favored lieutenants.  His departure creates a vacancy in the second assistant majority leader slot.
BIG ZAP MIGHT BE GOOD FOR SENATE.  In an interview published August 4 in Bloomberg Businessweek, reporter Joshua Green asked Elizabeth Warren, the Bay State’s senior U.S. Senator, “I know you have grandchildren.  I don’t know if they watch Saturday morning cartoons.  But a banker I spoke to at the Democratic convention said he worried (that) you and Bernie Sanders would become the liberal Wonder Twins if Democrats take over the Senate.  How will you and Bernie work together next year?”   She responded, “We will touch our rings together and use the lightning bolts to energize all of our colleagues.”

CITY OF BROTHERLY LIBERTARIANS. I’m still trying to figure out what our lovable former Republican governor, Bill Weld, was up to on the floor of the Democratic Convention that second night in Philadelphia.  Asked why he was there by a reporter/cameraman for a web news site whose name escapes me, Weld basically said he was an old friend of Hillary Clinton (true) and just wanted to be there for her at this biggest moment in her political life.  Weld has raised unconventionality to an art form, as we were reminded several weeks ago when he joined the ticket of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson as vice presidential nominee, so there was probably no better way for Weld to keep that unconventionality streak going than by going to an opposing party’s convention.  Maybe he was on a secret mission from Johnson to enlist Bernie’s bitter-enders?  Or maybe he was just bored and wanted to have some fun in Philly.
PROGRESS CAN ASK TOO MUCH OF US. The Boston-based Pioneer Institute wants the state “to embrace transponder technology for a wider variety of applications, such as parking and retail services.  A newly published institute report “explores transponder use in other states and encourages cooperation between public agencies and private industry to simplify and rethink customers’ transportation experience.”  Said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios, “Whether it’s dealing with a parking lot ticket machine or sitting in line at a drive-thru window, Massachusetts commuters face a number of unnecessary hurdles.  Transponder technology has the capacity to consolidate these different services and extend their use, to make life easier for millions of people.” Time and trouble will doubtless be saved when transponders can pay for coffee, burgers, ice cream, dry cleaning, etc., at the drive-thru windows of our lives, but we’ll be sacrificing those special moments with the window clerks as they hand us our change.  Are you really prepared to see “Have a good one” vanish from the land…whatever “one” might be?

DANGER LURKING ON PATIO, PART 1: Speaking of summer fun, a la videos of fish on Cape Cod, consider these facts next time you go to throw a fillet on the barbie:  according to the State Fire Marshal, there were 431 fires involving grills, hibachis and barbecues reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System between 2011 and 2014, all of which resulted in 20 civilian injuries, three firefighter injuries and $3.5 million in property damage.
BETTER WHEN I DIDN’T KNOW. I have been going up to the Massachusetts State House for decades.  I love the State House for its classical architecture and for how it uniquely blends the qualities of a good museum with the flavors of a normal, busy office building: the profound and the prosaic all rolled into one big beautiful Bullfinch masterpiece.  But, if pressed, I could not tell you which portrait of a former governor hangs where, nor would I be able to give you any details on the lives and work of most of those long-gone guvs.  So, I was caught by surprise this past Monday when education and religious advocates associated with the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute publicly asked for the relocation of a portrait of Gov. Henry Gardner, which now hangs to the right of an entrance to the House chamber, in the center of the third floor.  This spot is much too prominent, these folks assert, and thereby accords Gardner a degree of undeserved honor and respect. They find in Gardner, a member of the Know Nothing Party who served as governor from 1855 through 1858, an abhorrent figure, “a symbol of bigotry.”   The Gardner portrait “belongs in the State House,” allows Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform, but not in a “position of prominence.”  Before Monday, I knew nothing of this Know Nothing exec; now, when I avert my eyes from his portrait, I shall know the seductive sensation of self-righteous symbolism.

NEWS FLASH! TEACHER UNIONS HEART HILLARY.  This had to be the most unnecessary press release in the history of Massachusetts.  On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Teachers Association put it in writing that its board of directors had voted “to concur with the National Education Association’s recommendation of Hillary Clinton for president.  The MTA is the state affiliate of the NEA.  Was anyone expecting the teachers to embrace The Donald?
TRY CALLING HARVARD GUYS LOSERS, “SAD.”  Speaking of Trump, the Harvard University Republican Club late yesterday sent a letter to its members and alumni informing them that, for the first time in its 128-year existence, it would not be endorsing the Republican nominee for president.  The Harvard group is the oldest chapter of the College Republicans in the nation.  “Donald Trump is a threat to the survival of the Republic,” it declared.  Read the letter in its marvelous entirety at: https://www.facebook.com/HarvardGOP/posts/1190758900944693

TYCOONS FEAR HIS SHORT FINGER ON TRIGGER. The final word on Trump in this post goes to Senator Warren.  In the aforementioned Bloomberg Businessweek interview, Warren was asked, “Given that the financial industry has given Hillary $41 million this election vs. $109,000 for Trump, do you think banks will exert renewed pressure within the Democratic Party?” Said she, “I don’t see it as a swing back to Democrats so much as I see it as supporting sanity.  The financial-services people, as much as many of them would like to see more deregulation, are also deeply frightened by the prospect of a Trump presidency.  Nuclear war is bad for business.”   
DANGER LURKING ON PATIO, PART 2: “It’s only a matter of time before the fear of local Zika transmission we are experiencing in Florida becomes the reality for every state in the nation,” stated Ed Markey, the Bay State’s junior U.S. Senator, yesterday in a press release concerning the promising efforts now under way in Boston to develop vaccines to prevent the spread by mosquitos of the Zika virus, (“Senator Markey Joins Doctors and Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston to Discuss Promising Zika Virus Vaccine Candidates”).  Markey  says it’s time for the Congress “to pass a robust emergency funding package to deal with this growing crisis.”