Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Bedford: The Better Bet

Officials here in Fall River are pushing for a destination casino to be built on the 300 acre parcel that borders Freetown and was to be the home of a planned BioPark.  The casino would include three hotels, a shopping mall, a spa, convention facilities and a showroom. The proposed casino would be a one-stop shop destination and resort and provide employment for between 3,000-5,000 people.

Meanwhile, developers in New Bedford have been working on a casino proposal that would include 2 hotels, retail and conference facilities and restaurants on a mere 29 acres. It's estimated that it would add close to 10,000 new jobs.

The thing that really sets the two proposals apart though is in New Bedford the casino is being touted as an economic engine for the city and catalyst for downtown revitalization. In Fall River what is being proposed is a 300 acre complete complex with all the amenities patrons could seek. In New Bedford the complex is being purposely underbuilt to  influence casino patrons to become downtown patrons that eat at local restaurants and visit local shops and instead of building a theater it would gladly "funnel its patrons" to the Zeiterion. Casino developers are also touting the concept of a rewards program that would allow patrons to redeem frequent-player points at neighboring businesses. The New Bedford developers are also advocating for measures to help "stimulate pedestrian flow" which would have a beneficial effect on downtown shops and eateries. Finally, the New Bedford proposal would utilize a contaminated brownfields site. So not only would New Bedford get the financial impact of a casino, they would get a catalyst for downtown revitalization and be able to clean up and reclaim a contaminated piece of property.

I can't help to think that the Cannon Street Station proposal in New Bedford would benefit that city much more than the proposed plan here in Fall River. It is just a smarter plan that really seems to focus on the needs of the city. Underbuilding the facility to utilize existing city venues is a fantastic idea and responsible development. And utilizing a brownfield site makes it a win-win for everyone. Of course the irony is, while pursuing a casino Fall River may lose it's planned BioPark to New Bedford yet New Bedford would still be in the running for the casino. If the Governor, or a deciding body award casinos based on what sites will have the greater impact and best chance of success, I have to say the Cannon Street proposal is just a better bet.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree, Lefty.

The New Bedford proposal is a much more integrated one that incorporates benefits for the rest of the city. The Fall River plan, with a self-contained entity, won't do much for the rest of the city except provide tax revenues (and I must confess that I don't know what tax impact it would have, as I'm assuming the tribe gets tax benefits?) and whatever one-time cash infusion comes from the original purchase of the land (and I don't think we've seen a figure for that?)

So I think you're right. We may be losing our chance to reinvent Fall River as a bio hub to chase this possibility of a casino, only to have it go somewhere else. And even if we get it, there seems to be limited long-term benefit compared to the New Bedford plan.

There's also this issue of the Route 24 reimbursement to the state and the loss of grant funding via UMass Dartmouth. And the loss of good will with the Governor's office.

Very sad.