By Aaron Keebaugh
The lobby of the Comfort Inn & Suites swarmed with over 150 business leaders, investors—both local and national—and members from the local and state delegation last Friday morning for an Economic Summit designed to attract new commercial enterprise to Revere and ignite and redefine economic development in the city.
“We believe Revere is on the cusp of greatness,” Economic Development Director John Festa told the audience packed into the hotel’s conference room. “We have much to offer in terms of development opportunities. Mayor Rizzo is committed to creating a business-friendly atmosphere. Revere is on the rise… Our best days are ahead if us.”
Mayor Rizzo said that showcasing the city’s attributes has been one of his top priorities. He particularly emphasized Revere Beach as one of the city’s highlights. “Thanks to the DCR, [the beach] is the best it’s ever looked,” he told the crowd. “The area, though, is under-developed and under-realized.”
To the potential investors in attendance, Congressman Ed Markey noted the new Wonderland TOD station and garage as prominent catalysts for future development. The footbridge—to be named for Markey’s parents—will “capture the magic of that beach,” he added.
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein said Revere is an economic target area. “Many communities make the mistake of waiting for the market to find them…” she said.
The presentation included a 10-minute informative video that featured Mayor Rizzo and other city and state officials—Chief Cafarelli, Superintendent Paul Dakin, Congressman Ed Markey, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo—highlighting the positive aspects and infrastructure development the city has to offer potential investors.
Festa and Cate Blackford, Manager of Healthy Community Initiatives for Revere, talked through local incentives—tax-increment financing, streamlined permitting, and the new Revere Economic Development Fund being the most prominent examples—for prospective developers.
Areas for development in the city comprise multiple parcels of land in ten different locations, including Wonderland Park, North Shore Road/Lynnway, Northgate Shopping Center, and areas along Ocean Avenue and Revere Beach Boulevard, according to presentation documents.
Speaking to the audience Friday, Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle reiterated the impact the proposed casino would have on the local economy, noting that the $1-billion project would create jobs and a local source of revenue. “These are jobs for hard-working people, not only for Revere but around the community,” Tuttle said. He briefly discussed the $40 million investment the track-casino plans to invest for traffic improvements in the city, which, he hopes, “will be a catalyst for other improvements.”
It’s no surprise that discussion of new development in the city hinges on the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs. Rizzo and other government officials continue to trumpet the casino, which the mayor described as “a real driver for economic development.” Speaker Robert DeLeo called the Gaming Bill, which opened the door for casino development in Massachusetts, “one of the most important pieces of legislation in recent years.” As of now, Suffolk Downs is the only entity bidding for a Boston-area casino.
When asked the status of the casino mitigation package during the question-and-answer session, John Festa said “it’s progressing nicely,” but didn’t offer any specific details.
When Suffolk Down unveiled its plans for the casino project in April, the mitigation package—a financial negotiation between the applicant and the host communities—was planned to be revealed to the public by September. But the package has been delayed due to the negotiation process and the studies that continue to come in for the committee to review, Festa said in a phone call Tuesday.
“I definitely thought it would be done by now…. [But] we’re in very good shape. We get a chance to negotiate everything with Suffolk Downs. In a way it’s good, and in a way it’s frustrating,” he said of the process.
Festa went on to say that the Summit—the culmination of four months of planning from Mayor Rizzo’s economic development team—was a success. Since Friday, he has received calls from several investors who have expressed further interest in development opportunities in the city. Festa declined to identify and offer specific details about those investors and companies due to issues of confidentiality, but four of the companies hail from New Jersey, Maine, Texas, and Florida, he said.
“We’re very excited about these meetings coming up,” Festa said.