After Hurricane Sandy destroyed the coast of New Jersey and wreaked havoc on New York City a few years ago, coastal development has never been the same.
Before, a goal of elevations that started above the 100-year flood plains were the standard for most developments to avoid costly flooding issues and flood insurance. More and more, however, developments are turning towards what was just a fringe theory – the 500-year flood plain.
And count the Wynn Everett casino development as one of those casualties of the new way of thinking about what Mother Nature can do to buildings near water – and Charlestown residents will get the added benefit of 40 percent fewer soil-hauling trucks coming out of the site than originally proposed.
Wynn Everett officials reported late last week that they have just proposed to raise the height of the casino tower by 6’8” in order to eliminate one level of underground parking and bring the development above the 500-year floodplain.
“We used to only talk about and plan for the 100-year floodplain,” said Chris Gordon, a consultant for Wynn Everett, after a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Aug. 6. “People knew the 500-year floodplain existed and now people are looking seriously at it – especially insurance companies. The insurance company didn’t make us do it, but they did ask about it. We were asked to look at the prospect of being above the 500-year floodplain. I think some of the storms that have happened and the destruction made people look at that. If you can do it, it’s a preferable thing to do…We believe we can show that we’re above the 500-year floodplain now.”
Other developments have also come under such requests, such as a recently proposed residential development in the Graphic Arts Building on Charlestown’s Sullivan Square – which reported last month it had to raise it’s parking as newly proposed federal flood maps would “touch” part of the project.
However, Wynn Everett officials said it would not result in a taller building. It will remain at the proposed height of 386 feet. Apparently, at the behest of Steve Wynn himself, the heights of many of the ceilings were very tall, and could afford to be brought down without risking any of the desired luxury design elements.
“We had very high ceiling heights in the foyer, for example, and we have taken them down in some areas, and that is by suggestion of Mr. Steve Wynn and his design team in some cases,” said Gordon to the MGC. “Ceiling heights in the corridors were too high. We knocked them down six inches on each floor and the final height is still at nine feet.”
Taking away one level of underground parking has the very positive effect of eliminating the amounts of soil needed to be trucked off-site. Not having to go down another level with the garage foundation eliminates a very significant amount of soil that would have needed to be removed. Wynn officials this week said that the amounts of trucks hauling soil off-site will be reduced by 40 percent due to the change in elevations.
“Adjustments to both the garage footprint and finish floor elevations, as well as a small reduction in parking spaces at the Project Site, provide benefits by reducing earthworks and trucking of soil material off-site,” read the company’s environmental filing.
That is perhaps the best news for residents in Charlestown near Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue or residents on the Parkway and Lower Broadway in Everett. Both of those areas will likely be used for trucks leaving the site with contaminated soils, though the exact routes of those trucks has yet to be determined. The routes will be set by the general contractor later this summer or in early fall. Though an Everett route is still an option, most believe that the final routing will go through Charlestown.
Wynn officials have promised repeatedly that no soil-hauling trucks would be routed through neighborhoods streets such as Medford or Main Streets, but would rather stick to the main thoroughfares of Rutherford Avenue and Alford Street/Sullivan Square.