Wynn Resorts has won the auction for a big section of the Mystic Generating Station on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett, across the street from the company’s Encore Boston Harbor casino.
But it remains to be seen whether New England Revolution fans will score their own victory: a soccer stadium going up on Boston’s doorstep.
On Tuesday, power plant owner Constellation Energy completed the sale of roughly 45 acres to the Nevada-based casino company for $25 million. Both sides released brief statements about the deal, though neither of them addressed efforts to lure the Revs there.
All Constellation would say is that it has completed the sale of the decommissioned portion of Mystic station, “following an open and active sale process,” and that the sale represents the best outcome for the company and the city of Everett.
Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver issued an open-ended statement as well, saying: “Our goal for the purchase is to ensure that future development in the area is synergistic with our existing investment at Encore Boston Harbor, our planned development on Lower Broadway and the broad planning of the Lower Broadway District by the City of Everett.”
The Kraft Group, meanwhile, continued its silence, declining to comment about potential interest in the property.
But the Krafts have made no secret about their desire to find a standalone home for their soccer team, which currently shares Gillette Stadium in Foxborough with the New England Patriots.
They’ve been on a long quest to find a suitable spot in or near Boston to build a stadium more similar in size to those used by other pro soccer teams, with 20,000 to 30,000 seats, and custom-designed for the game’s sightlines. Many sites have been pitched over the years, from the old Wonderland dog track in Revere to the industrial Inner Belt area in Somerville to the City of Boston’s public works yard next to the Southeast Expressway. The Krafts got close with the former Bayside Expo site, owned by UMass, but that idea was dropped in 2017 amid political pushback and traffic concerns.
More recently, the focus has shifted to Everett — and in particular to the land across from Route 99 from the four-year-old casino. Wynn would still need to work out a deal with the Krafts. The two companies already have a relationship dating back to when Wynn started looking to expand into Massachusetts. Land owned by the Krafts in Foxborough was Wynn’s first choice, more than a decade ago, before the casino operator moved on to Everett.
While Wynn owns the power-plant land now, Revs fans can’t celebrate just yet. The roughly 45 acres sit within a state-regulated Designated Port Area, where only maritime industrial projects are allowed to be built. Sports venues, for example, are not an allowed use. Removing the site from the DPA requires an act of the Legislature, or a protracted boundary review process by the state Office of Coastal Zone Management.
Proponents for Wynn and the city tried to move a measure through the Legislature last summer, tucking it into the back of an economic development bill in the last days of the year’s formal sessions. The House of Representatives went along with the idea, but the Senate leadership seemed reluctant, and time ran out before an agreement could be reached.
Environmental groups such as the Conservation Law Foundation raised concerns about that measure, which also would have exempted the project from size limits dictated by the state’s tidelands development rules under a law known as Chapter 91. They wanted a more public process, in part to protect the site’s potential for future industrial port use. Supporters for the measure, meanwhile, argued public access to the city’s waterfront there would be improved by a large-scale development, instead of a decommissioned power plant.
Wynn’s best bet now seems to be striking a deal with CLF and its allies, the kind of deal that avoids another round of controversy at the State House. One idea that’s been floated is to retain some part of the riverfront as a port, possibly for cruise ships, while the stadium gets built further from the water’s edge. It’s also possible that Chapter 91 protections, considered sacred by CLF, can remain in the next attempt.
The property in question is primarily in Everett but it straddles the Boston line; some of the 45 acres are taken up by an Eversource switching station that will remain, and one piece of the site is actually in the river. Constellation is keeping an adjacent site with two newer electricity-generating units, known as 8 and 9, that are primarily natural gas-fired. But even those are scheduled to be retired in spring 2024, and the future of that section remains unknown at this time.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria has long had his eyes on the decommissioned plant property, hoping it can become part of an entertainment district along Lower Broadway with restaurants, hotels, and other venues — building off the casino’s success and replacing the gritty industrial uses that once lined the thoroughfare.
In 2021, city officials included the 45-acre area within an urban renewal district, essentially giving them the right to take it by eminent domain if necessary. That decision apparently sparked Constellation to put the decommissioned portion of the property up for sale last year, when the energy company hired a team with brokerage CBRE led by Scott Dragos. While the resulting contest was competitive, it’s unclear how many other bidders submitted offers.
Even if a deal with Kraft Group doesn’t come to fruition, Wynn at least knows it now controls the property’s destiny, as the company prepares to develop land across the street from the casino, next door to the Mystic plant. Construction on a parking garage and new events venue with a rooftop “day club” and a bar with sports betting is expected to begin later this year, and will include an overhead walkway across Broadway connecting the casino with the new development.
Simply demolishing the hulking buildings and smokestacks would be an aesthetic improvement for such a prominent site.
“It’s truly our gateway into the city,” said Matt Lattanzi, Everett’s planning director. “It’s the first parcel of land you see entering Everett from Boston. We want it to be something vibrant, something nice.”