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Panel of nine prefers look of Sun's Massachusetts casino
If architects who reviewed the two projects competing for the sole Greater Boston casino license were the final arbiters, Mohegan Sun would be sitting pretty.
In June, nine architects convened by AIA Massachusetts, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects, unanimously found that Mohegan Sun's $1.3 billion plan for a Revere casino "was markedly superior in every design aspect" to Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts' $1.6 billion proposal for Everett.
"The Revere design is playful, has two inviting entrances, is pedestrian friendly, and makes good connections to public transit and the surrounding community," the architects wrote in a memorandum to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which requested their input. "While smaller than the Everett facility, the Revere building projects a grand civic presence. The proposed resort-casino is a creative, successful design for the site … (that) also echoes Revere's history of recreation and links the resort to the beach."
The Mohegan Sun project, designed by the firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, "holds the potential to help revitalize Revere" and "feels like a true destination," the architects wrote.
By contrast, they added, "The Everett design seems stale, has very poor massing and program (a massive hotel tower just sits on top of a vast horizontal casino base), and fails to aggressively take advantage of its waterfront location. … The Everett design as presented was described at best as 'flat' and 'uninspired' and at worst as 'atrocious.'
"... In sum, the panel felt the Wynn proposal for Everett had major design flaws and shortcomings in all aspects."
The gaming commission concluded public hearings on the competing proposals this week, and is expected to award the Greater Boston license by Sept. 12. Last week, the commission received a report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which assessed the proposals' impacts on land use and transportation and the developers' plans to mitigate those impacts.
In three areas - traffic congestion, public transportation and economic and community benefits - the council gave the edge to Mohegan Sun. In the areas of developer-funded shuttles for patrons and employees; transportation monitoring and reporting; and environmental impacts, the council favored the Wynn project, which would be built on a brownfield site the developer would clean.
As for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, the council found the proposals to be equal.
Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's chief executive officer, said Thursday he had not read the planning council's report. He said the architects' memorandum was, naturally, well received.
"Anything you hear that's favorable makes you feel good," he said.
Etess said he didn't want to discuss "wins and losses" or "get into the prediction business," but felt good about the way Mohegan Sun has pursued the Greater Boston casino license.
He noted that Mohegan Sun has signed "surrounding community agreements" with a dozen municipalities near Revere, notably Boston. All of the agreements were achieved without arbitration.
Wynn has executed five surrounding community agreements, two of which required arbitration. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh refused to participate in arbitration proceedings with Wynn, leaving the gaming commission to require Wynn to make mitigation payments to Boston as a condition of any license the commission awards Wynn.
The ultimate fate of all Massachusetts gaming projects depends on the outcome of a November referendum on the state's 2011 expanded-gambling law, which could be repealed.