With eye toward Elm Street redevelopment, MGM Springfield to ask city council to delay market-rate housing commitment until afte

MGM Springfield will formally ask the City Council on Monday for additional time to meet its commitment to create market-rate housing in the downtown area, due to changes in plans that could help with the redevelopment of a long-vacant, historic Elm Street block.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. Under the proposed extension, MGM would still be committed to developing market-rate housing, but the occupancy deadline would be 18 months after the casino begins operating. The casino is slated to open in September 2018.

MGM committed to providing 54 units of market-rate housing in the downtown area as one of the conditions of its Host Community Agreement with Springfield as it builds a $950 million casino in the South End. The agreement, comprised of several conditions the casino company must meet, was not only approved by city officials but by voters in the city prior to MGM winning the gaming license from the state.

In recent months MGM Springfield offered to join as a partner in a potential $40 million mixed-use redevelopment at historic 31 Elm St. that could become part of its commitment to provide market-rate housing, officials said.

Those discussions, which involve representatives of developers Opal Real Estate Group and WinnDevelopment and the city, are backed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and his administration, but will result in additional time needed by MGM on its housing commitment.

MGM Springfield had purchased the former School Department building on State Street from the city in 2016 for $600,000, and planned to use it to help meet its housing commitment. However, representatives of the city and MGM have said the Elm Street project could be more beneficial. The discussions thus far have raised the possibility of MGM investing $11 million to aid with the Elm Street project.

Councilors raised some questions about the switch in the housing plans, but some members spoke favorably about the resulting need for more time.

The change must be made to the Host Community Agreement, requiring approval from the City Council and mayor. In May, the Mass. Gaming Commission expressed frustration over the delay of the creation of the market-rate housing units MGM Resorts International committed to, but said it was pleased to see the company working hand-in-hand with local entities and government officials to get it done.