By Aaron Nicodemus
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — A major national retail developer that owns the Dartmouth Mall and 55 other malls across the country has partnered with a casino developer to develop 30 or more acres in the Hicks-Logan section of the city.
The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), a publicly-traded $3.5 billion company based in Philadelphia with regional malls from Maine to Florida, has signed a 90-day contract to develop land controlled by Northeast Resorts, a casino development company from Western Massachusetts.
PREIT Executive Vice President Harvey A. Diamond said he envisions a shopping center on the site, with restaurants, residential properties and perhaps a hotel/conference center. He said he would like the development to be anchored by a major entertainment draw, like a casino, but said the development could stand on its own without one.
“We’re in the retail business, that’s what we do,” he said today at a meeting at Mar-Lees Seafood in New Bedford. “We don’t build casinos, that’s not our business.”
PRIET’s partner in the development is Northeast Resorts, a Western Massachusetts development company whose primary focus is casino gaming. Leon Dragone of East Longmeadow has spent his career trying to establish a casino in Massachusetts, so far unsuccessfully. His partner in Northeast Resorts is H. Steven Norton of Las Vegas, a former executive at the Sands Hotel and Casino and a developer of gambling destinations throughout the South and Midwest.
Mr. Diamond said PRIET will take the next 90 days performing its due diligence on the site: environmental testing, negotiating with other property owners in Hicks Logan, drawing up concept plans, and meeting informally with city officials to hear their ideas about the property. At the end of 90 days, Mr. Diamond said PRIET will then decide whether to move forward.
Mr. Dragone said that his company will continue to pursue a casino at the site, and has had discussions with the Wampanoags of Aquinnah, the tribe that made an unsuccessful push for a casino a decade ago.
Mr. Dragone and Mr. Diamond had a meeting today with Mayor Scott W. Lang and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
>From the city’s point of view, the plans for the site are well and good, but saving at least some of the jobs at Revere Copper & Brass is paramount while developers craft their plans.
“Revere has an offer on the table, and Mr. Dragone indicated to me today that he would not stand in the way of that offer,” Mayor Lang said, referring to an offer from a Cleveland financier to lease a building from Revere and operate the plating portion of its business, saving about half of the 85 jobs. Revere has rejected the offer as unworkable.
“We do not have a problem with the deal,” said Mr. Dragone. “We would work with the city to keep those jobs there, for as long as we are able.”
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Publication date: June 13, 2007
By Aaron Nicodemus