A new casino was supposed to be exactly what the city of New Bedford needed to turn things around.
But the southeastern Massachusetts city won’t be getting a new resort, and with that and other projects suddenly evaporating, city officials are upset and uncertain about how to move forward.
Along with the casino, there was also the possibility of hosting Olympic sailing competitions in 2024.
But with Boston dropping out of the race for the Summer Olympics, any hopes of international competition coming to the city were quickly dashed last week.
New Bedford in Need of Economic Development
In a state that is among the wealthiest in the country, New Bedford is a working class enclave with relatively high unemployment levels.
And while the situation has improved in recent years, it is still far behind the rest of the state economically, something a casino was supposed to fix.
But KG Urban Enterprises announced late last month that they would no longer be pursing the $650 million waterfront development plan that city residents had overwhelmingly shown support for.
According to officials at KG Urban, it has simply become impossible to get enough financing to fund the project, due in large part to the possibility of competition from a local Native American tribe in the future.
“KG Urban’s decision to abandon the Cannon Street project is an extreme disappointment and a great shock given that its CEO Barry Gosin had led everyone to believe he would have the necessary funds to build the project,” Mayor Jonathan Mitchell said in a statement after the company pulled out of the casino licensing race. “So city residents and its leadership are all understandably upset by [KG Urban CEO Barry Gosin’s] decision.”
Had the casino ultimately won the battle for the third casino license (only one other proposal, at the Brockton Fairgrounds, seems viable at this point), it may well have become the largest employer in the city, something that city lawmakers had hoped would cut deeply into the unemployment rate.
Now, with that dream dead, New Bedford is now turning its eyes to smaller projects that they hope will produce returns.
“We’re continuing to hit the singles and doubles of economic development,” Mayor Mitchell told the Boston Globe. “There isn’t anything sexy about those types of efforts.
They don’t garner the headlines that casino projects do. But that’s what it takes.”
Support Sought for Cleanup of Casino Site
New parks are being developed, and businesses are taking advantages of improvements to the roads and sidewalks in the city.
And officials are still hoping that they can get support to clean up the former power plant site in the harbor, the location where it was hoped the casino would be built.
That cleanup was expected to be a part of the $650 million in development pledged by KG Urban as a part of the casino resort project.
Now, several state representatives are asking the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to figure out who, if anyone, will clean up the contaminated site.
“Given the seriousness of the violations that have occurred at this location, including the release of materials into New Bedford Harbor, we expect that the Department will vigorously pursue and insist upon remediation at the site consistent with those actions agreed to be undertaken by KG Urban,” five state representatives wrote in a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
KG Urban had estimated that it would take about nine months and $50 million to properly decontaminate the site. Currently, the land is owned by Eversource and Sprague Energy.