City officials did their best to begin the healing process on Monday night after losing the casino battle, with Councillor Brian Arrigo suggesting the City start a Master Planning process and Mayor Dan Rizzo unveiling plans for another Economic Development Summit in November.
The Monday Council meeting featured councillors, Mayor Rizzo, Economic Development Chief John Festa and City Planner Frank Stringi touting the attributes of the city and engaging in a discourse to help move on from what was a devastating loss – but one that the mayor and his team said was not a centerpiece.
“We never hinged our development plan on the casino,” said Festa, reiterating similar comments from the mayor. “That was an added development bonus if we got it, but it was never the center of our strategy. Revere never really relied on the casino and it would have been foolish to do so.”
Mayor Rizzo said moving on from the casino business would mean looking at the two prime pieces of land that are now left over – the Revere side of Suffolk Downs and the vacant Wonderland property.
“We’re left with two of the most valuable pieces of undeveloped property in the Commonwealth – Suffolk Downs and Wonderland,” he said. “I am meeting with the ownership this week to discuss the future of those. We’re in the process of arranging a meeting with Secretary Bialecki next week to make those parcels more attractive. Certainly talking about a commuter rail stop at Wonderland, as Councillor [John] Powers suggested, I think is an absolute no-brainer and something we’ll talk with the Governor and his administration about making a reality.”
He said he had also exchanged phone calls with Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who is presiding over the opening of the blockbuster Assembly Row development in his City.
Rizzo said there is no reason Revere cannot expect the same.
“There’s no reason we can’t do that at Suffolk Downs and I have every expectation we will do something like that there,” he said.
In preparation, the City has scheduled a second Economic Development meeting that Festa said is called, ‘Economic Development Strategy: A Progress Report.’ It will be held on Nov. 21 and will dovetail on the first summit held a few years ago.
The City has already sent up drones to take video and pictures of the coastline to highlight the key properties in the city for interested developers.
Along those same lines, Councillor Brian Arrigo started things out by calling for a comprehensive re-zoning and Master Planning process as a way to move the City forward without a casino.
“I think now that the casino madness is out of the way, we need to talk about how we’ll compete against other communities like Chelsea, Everett and Somerville,” he said. “We’re all in a competition for economic development and residents…I think we need to have a Master Plan and involve everyone and everyone’s ideas. It won’t take one day or be one event with one person. This will be bringing in local businesses, community groups and residents together. This is a blueprint going forward – not just thinking about the next election cycle or short-term projects – but rather 20 years in the future.”
He said he would like to see a process where the City searches through every lot to prevent zoning mistakes – such as the tower on the Parkway – and makes a plan for every inch of the City with input from everyone. He projected it would take two or three years to do it right.
“We need a business plan intact,” he said.
Councillor Stephen Reardon agreed, saying moving forward is the best idea right now.
“We’re all part of this and we’re going to be part of this in the future,” he said.
Said Councillor John Powers, “This City is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. I think we can all agree it’s going to be a very difficult year to maintain City services at their current levels so we need to get new revenues into the City. Let’s not sit and scream in the dark, but let’s light a candle for the City.”
Councillor Bob Haas said the City has lit a candle for the region to see it in a positive light through the exposure of the casino debate – something he said might turn around the long-standing hesitation of investors to come to Revere.
“I honestly believe some of these key areas haven’t been developed – including the Beach – because people didn’t have faith in Revere,” he said. “After this with the casino, I think that has changed. I think people now look at Revere as an economic engine.”
Mayor Rizzo agreed, saying if nothing more, the casino process was an excellent showcase for the region to see all that Revere has to offer.
“As much as we didn’t win the license, we all collectively have put Revere on the map,” he said. “We have been highlighting land in Revere for the past three years. We should be proud of that and we should be proud that we presented ourselves to the Commonwealth as a prime place to do business.”