Globe Correspondent, March 31, 2017
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EVERETT — The $2.4 billion Wynn Resorts casino is rising along the Mystic River here, a lavish resort that will feature a five-star hotel, fine dining, and a waterfront promenade.
But as construction moves forward, the Wynn company is making plans to demolish a three-block section of a close-knit neighborhood just across the street from the casino.
Wynn Resorts has purchased 10 residential, commercial, and industrial properties to the east of the main road to the casino, often paying far beyond their assessed value to stake a claim to the shabby stretch and create a buffer between the casino and the surrounding neighborhood.
From September 2015 to August 2016, Wynn Resorts spent nearly $19.5 million on the 10 parcels near the casino, a Globe review of city records and corporate filings found.? In one transaction, Wynn Resorts bought? a single-family home with a small business building in the back, a property assessed at $193,800, for $900,000. In another, a home was assessed at $353,400 and went for $975,000.
The company, headed by casino magnate Steve Wynn, already has demolished a number of nearby properties, including a pair of two-family homes, the G&T Lounge, and Peppi’s Auto Sales. Several other businesses along Route 99, leading to the casino, have plans to move, and records indicate Wynn Resorts has reached agreements to buy an additional half-dozen properties in the neighborhood, known as the Lynde.
The spree of acquisitions forced some residents to leave homes they had lived in for years.
Chrissy, who rented an apartment in a three-family home before Wynn Resorts demolished it last year, said the news that she, her husband, and daughter would have to move came as a shock.
“We didn’t know where we were going,” said Chrissy, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “We were going to be homeless.”
Chrissy grew up in the neighborhood, where “everybody knew everybody.”
They found a new apartment across town and are happy there. When they see how the old neighborhood has changed, they feel fortunate they left when they did.
“We thank God we’re in a good place right now,” Chrissy said.
Formally, limited liability companies created by Wynn Resorts officials are buying the properties, records show. But the company acknowledged it made a number of purchases in the area and plans to landscape the stretch along Route 99 to make the approach to the casino more attractive. The casino also plans to work with the city, and possibly others, on further development in the area.
“As a prudent developer, we have a responsibility to invest in the overall success of our host community and play a meaningful role in what will be built around our $2.4 billion resort,” Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor, said in a statement. “That means, in the short term, we will proceed with demolition and add landscaping to make the entry to our resort spectacular. In the long term, we will work closely with the city of Everett to bring even more vitality and prosperity” to the area.
Under new zoning codes approved in 2015, redevelopment could include hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and office buildings in the area, for decades an industrial mainstay. Monsanto Chemical Co. occupied the casino site, looming over the neighborhood and spewing smoke and fumes into the air.
A Wynn Resorts spokesman said that in nearly all of the acquisitions, Everett property owners contacted the casino to indicate their willingness to sell. With the pending residential transactions, the company is waiting until tenants can move before they close on the properties, he said.
Wynn Resorts is “paying amounts consistent with appraised values for properties along Route 99 that reflect the licensing impact of Wynn Boston Harbor,” the spokesman said.
Most residents weren’t overly upset over relocating, city officials said.
“I think people saw it coming and they started making alternate moves,” said Steve Supino, the city’s director of health and human services.
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Mayor Carlo DeMaria said his office helped a few residents find new homes in the area and is available to help others.
“If anyone reads this article and they’re currently being displaced, they should know to call my office,” he said.
But some community groups are concerned that residents, particularly immigrants, may not understand their rights as tenants. One neighborhood group plans to go door to door this spring to let them know.
“We are more concerned about those who don’t understand the impact,” said the Rev. Myrlande DesRosiers of the Everett Haitian Community Center. “Because the [housing] prices now in Everett are so high, once they move out of this place, they may not be able to stay in the city.”
Neighborhood businesses also are trying to figure out what comes next. James Massone, who owns Malden Auto Body, said he plans to relocate in Malden or Everett, but couldn’t comment further because he is negotiating with Wynn Resorts over the property, along with three other residential parcels he owns a few blocks from the casino.
Michael Southwick, owner of LTI Worldwide Limo on Bow Street, said he plans to move his business to Chelsea after selling his land, which is less than an acre, for $5.65 million in June 2016, records show. He sold an adjacent parcel for the same price.
Another company that will likely move is Boston Freightliner, a truck dealer, which is just one block away. It is in talks with the city and Wynn Resorts to sell to Wynn and move to the former General Electric property, a 40-acre tract between Air Force Road and the Malden River, city officials said.
The city has obtained the right to take nine small commercial parcels by eminent domain but so far hasn’t done so. Beyond those properties, the city would need state permission.
“It’s not a simple process and rightfully so,” said Tony Sousa, the city’s planning director. “We’d have to go through the entire public process [again].”
But DeMaria said he hasn’t heard of any problems with negotiations and is excited by the area’s potential.
“Everything has gone very smoothly with the people he [bought properties from]. They’re very ecstatic,” DeMaria said. “He’s looking to benefit the neighborhood.”
Mark Micheli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.