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Downtown Crossing's Filene's Site, East Boston Casino: Tied?

The Menino administration has tied a casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston to development at the old Filene's site in Downtown Crossing. That's according to a corker of a column this morning by The Globe's Brian McGrory.

You know the backstory on the most watched development site in Boston: New Jersey-based Vornado Realty Trust, which owns much of the area around New York's Penn Station as well as a slew of property nationwide, bought the old Filene's building, kicked out the tenants, knocked the building down and then left the site vacant starting in 2008, always intending to build a tower of apartments and retail but never quite getting around to it. In early 2010, Vornado chairman Steve Roth boasted during a speech at Columbia University that he made it an unofficial policy to let development sites lay fallow long enough to lure public incentives. Mayor Menino blasted him in an open letter, calling it a "cynical ploy" that was "inexcusable."
According to McGrory's column, the mayor any casino permit at the Suffolk Downs racetrack, of which Vornado owns 20 percent, to development at the Filene's site, whether by Roth's firm or another builder.

“You can’t make a fool out of the city with a big hole downtown,’’ Menino said yesterday. “I can’t allow that to happen.’’ “They’re not listening to me,’’ he’s privately told others, referring to the Suffolk Downs owner and his demand that Vornado address its hole downtown. He’s hinted that O’Donnell, his old friend, has been more talk than action in resolving the Vornado problem. The city’s development officials have basically told Suffolk Downs owners: No building at Filene’s, no casino.

And while it is the state that issues casino licenses, it is the city that signs off on variances and permits.

Where, then, does this leave the possibility of a fresh Downtown Crossing tower to join all the others? Vornado had been negotiating earlier this year with a pair of developers intent on taking over the site, but the deal fell through over a security deposit (hate it when that happens). Recently, Vornado has quietly approached the city with, according to McGrory, plans through "a credible company" to build an apartment-and-retail tower taller than the 39 stories once bandied about. Stay tuned.

· Gambling on Mayor Menino's Ire [Globe]
· Boston Mayor Outraged by Roth’s ‘Intentional Cynical Ploy’ [NY Observer]
· Vacant Filene's Site Stealing Menino's Mojo [Curbed Boston]