Largest Affordable Housing Plan In 10 Years Part Of Soloviev Casino Project

Written By Grant Lucas on October 20, 2023
Rendering of a proposed casino in Manhattan by the Soloviev Group, which has proposed the largest number of affordable housing in the area in a decade

With only three available downstate licenses available for a New York casino, the competition is obviously fierce, especially if such licensing opens the door to offer online casinos in NY once that industry is legalized. On top of that, any groups looking to develop a gaming facility needs to garner support from local communities.

The Soloviev Group has attempted to do so with extravagant plans and details of a Manhattan project. Now, the developer is reversing course a bit and choosing a different route.

As part of its proposal, the Soloviev Group would build 1,325 apartments with about almost 40% of them offered below market-rent rate. The total would stand as the most affordable units built in the area in over 10 years.

One thing is clear: This only happens if the Soloviev Group gets a downstate NY casino license.

Affordable housing part of Manhattan NY casino project

Soloviev has targeted this 6.7-acre site for some time, coming out in late 2022 with its plans to build a casino near the United Nations.

The group had elaborate plans for a museum, residential towers and even a Ferris wheel. Although it appears Soloviev has ditched that latter detail.

As has been the case with almost every other downstate casino project proposal, community reception to Soloviev’s Freedom Plaza plans has not been as warm as one would hope. So, in an attempt to woo the locals, the Soloviev Group has adapted with a large swath of affordable housing integrated into its project.

“We’re not required to do it,” Michael Hershman, chief executive for Soloviev, told the New York Times, alluding to a city-approved plan for the developer to construct mixed-use towers without affordable housing.

Hershman added, however, that the Mohegan Sun casino that Soloviev plans for would make the more-afordable housing “economically viable.”

Latest NY casino plans could gain community support

Throughout the past year, the Soloviev Group has released details about its proposed NY casino in Manhattan. Plans have essentially evolved based on community reception and feedback.

The latest proposal features two residential towers, including one standing 600 feet that would house 513 “income-restricted units”, as the New York Times put it. Those units range from studio to three-bedroom apartments, which would be available to folks making an average of 80% of the region’s median income. As Hershman told the Times, construction could start in 2025 if the group receives a casino license.

And the latest affordable housing plans could put Soloviev on the right track to potentially receiving a license for a casino, which would mostly be built below street level.

“I can’t speak for everybody, but there will be people now who will reconsider,” said Reshma Patel, chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 6, which last year voted to reject any plans that included a casino, citing traffic concerns as well as skepticism regarding a casino’s benefits to the area.

That said, per the Times, she still opposes the plan: “Why can’t we do all these things without a casino?”

Soloviev continues to find ways to connect with community

Affordable housing is the latest way the Soloviev Group has attempted to connect with and earn the support of the local community.

Last month, Soloviev announced plans to install and maintain a light display from artist Bruce Munro.

Field of Light, as it will be called, will be free to the public and open for at least a year starting in December (originally slated to open in September). According to the press release, the exhibit will “honor New York’s enduring creative spirit.

The difference with the affordable housing plan, however, is the strong tie to the casino, set to be developed by the architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group. No casino, no affordable apartments.

“Without a doubt,” Ingels told the Times, “we’d have to reimagine the project as a whole.”

Photo by Soloviev Group
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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