Encore Boston Harbor Expansion Stalled by State Environmental Review

Posted on: October 21, 2023, 10:51h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2023, 09:45h.

Encore Boston Harbor’s parent company, Wynn Resorts, is seeking state approvals to expand the casino’s footprint across Broadway in Everett. The first phase of the proposed project would result in 142,000 square feet of additional floor space, with a WynnBet Sportsbook, a 979-seat theater, and a poker room among the development’s highlights.

Encore Boston Harbor expansion Wynn Resorts
Encore Boston Harbor is seeking state approval to expand its integrated resort south across Broadway. However, a state environmental review concluded that concerns about potential traffic must first be addressed. (Image: The Boston Globe)

Wynn received the blessing of the City of Everett Planning & Development Board earlier this month. The casino was earlier deemed allowed to take its gaming operations across Broadway by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to the roughly 17-acre site.

One of the final steps in the project being fully greenlit is achieving approval from Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper. But her office this week denied the project on grounds that it “does not adequately and properly comply” with the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act.

The state law requires Tepper’s office to study the environmental impacts of projects that require state permits, financial assistance, or land disposition. The goal of the Environmental Protection Act is to “minimize and mitigate” damage to the Massachusetts environment “to the maximum extent practicable.”

Review Finds Issues

In her office’s review of the Encore Boston Harbor expansion proposal, Tepper’s team determined that the development would result “in the need for significant mitigation” of traffic.

Review of this project change has shown that the Proponent failed to adhere to strict monitoring protocols previously established by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Gaming Commission and did not meet ‘mode share’ targets designed to minimize vehicular travel to and from the site and into the surrounding roadway network in Everett, Somerville, and Boston,” Tepper’s office wrote in its findings.

The environmental officials said Wynn’s proposal to include three new parking garages with 2,200 spaces demonstrates the casino’s expectation that the expansion will increase traffic. Tepper said “further analysis and consultation” is needed “to ensure that mitigation commitments are commensurate with the increase in impacts.”

Wynn has been instructed to complete a “Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) addressing the concerns raised in Tepper’s review.

Congestion and Climate

Traffic is of utmost concern at the state Energy and Environmental Affairs department, as running cars pose the greatest environmental threat from the Encore Boston Harbor expansion.

The key issues, as you might imagine, revolve around traffic,” said Joe Delaney, the chief of community affairs for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. “They [Energy and Environmental Affairs] like to see parking limited somewhat so that people use public transportation.”

Encore’s current casino resort already has more than 2,900 parking spaces on-site and a supplemental 800-space parking garage off-property. Encore’s expansion project, consisting of three additional parking garages, is anticipating a later second expansion phase that would bring two new hotel towers to the expansion property. The preliminary design includes 800 additional guestrooms.

If the state eventually signs off on the two phases, Wynn officials say the total cost of the expansion would be roughly $1.7 billion. Encore Boston Harbor opened in June 2019 at a cost of $2.6 billion.