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Encore Boston Harbor ready to dazzle visitors, by land and sea

EVERETT, Mass. — One if by land, two if by sea is a historic mantra for Boston.

Executives of Encore Boston Harbor aren’t expecting a British incursion, but they were anticipating casino guests invading by land and sea when the $2.6 billion resort opens for the first time Sunday morning.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. spent an estimated $70 million to clean up what Everett Mayor Carlo deMaria conceded Friday was an EPA Superfund candidate when the company acquired 33 acres that was the former location of a chemical plant on the banks of the Mystic River in January 2015.

Now, a 671-room, bronze-colored hotel, a staple of the Wynn brand, is planted at 1 Broadway in Everett.

Fresh flowers near walkways

The grounds surrounding the resort are filled with freshly planted flowers and trees, and groundskeepers were working Saturday to put the finishing touches on a new riverwalk that ties into the Boston area’s extensive trail system. Some people were expected to arrive on foot or by bicycle Sunday.

The river access has given the resort an unusual transportation option — by boat. Only the Colorado River-crossing shuttles between Bullhead City, Arizona, and Laughlin offer anything close to similar to it in Nevada.

Three 41-foot, 35-passenger premium harbor shuttles have been built to transport passengers year-round from 7 a.m. to 11:40 p.m. from the World Trade Center in Seaport and Long Wharf in downtown Boston. A fourth boat will be added to the fleet in August.

With the shuttles departing every 20 to 30 minutes, introductory one-way fares of $7 and subway and bus lines that connect directly to the ports, Wynn officials expect thousands to take advantage of the unusual mass transit option to the resort.

Boats cost $1 million to build

The $1 million vessels were built by Boston BoatWorks, a custom luxury yacht builder based in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and are operated by Bay State Cruises of Boston. The boats were designed with low profiles to be able to navigate beneath the Alford Street Bridge, which is on a key land route to the casino.

In addition to paying for the boats, Wynn Resorts refurbished the dock at the World Trade Center and built the landing at the property to accommodate private boat touch-and-go drop-offs.

There are other vessels dotting the water near the resort: barges filled with fireworks. Just prior to the doors opening Sunday, the company was set to launch a three-minute daytime fireworks display by Grucci, the same company that presents the “America’s Party” display on the Strip every New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks are scheduled to be launched from the building as well as from the barges lining the harbor for casino visitors waiting outside for the opening to enjoy.

The drawbridge on Alford Street isn’t the only point of concern on the land routes leading to the resort.

Road concerns

Broadway, a six-lane boulevard leading to the main entrance of the property, was completely open for the first time in a year on Saturday with Encore construction traffic and curbside landscaping closing lanes for months.

U.S. Highway 1, a six-lane freeway curling near the resort, has two lanes closed for a major reconstruction overhaul, and traffic is frequently snarled on it at all times of the day. Harsh New England winter weather has battered many city streets, pitting them with potholes.

Surface streets near the resort have “rotaries,” the East Coast version of roundabouts that can efficiently move traffic — but at a snail’s pace when overtaxed with vehicles.

Encore Boston Harbor has 3,000 onsite parking spaces and, at the recommendation of regional transportation officials, announced it would cost customers $24 for up to six hours and $42 a day to park — an incentive for patrons to use mass transit instead of cars.

Transportation ad campaign

The company has spent $1 million for a massive advertising campaign to educate people about how to get to the resort without using a car.

James Folk, executive director of transportation at Encore Boston Harbor, is expecting 2,000 to 3,000 cars an hour on streets in Everett and nearby communities. But the company also has enlisted hundreds of police officers in traffic details from a variety of state and municipal agencies to direct vehicles.

The company also has set up digital street signs to aid drivers, and the company’s ad campaign directs prospective visitors to the subway, commuter rail lines and buses. Encore also has established free transportation on branded 58-passenger coaches between train stations and the resort, and with shuttle buses holding 26 people. Park-and-ride options for $7 also are available from various outlying communities.

A drop-off area has been established across the street from the resort for ride-hailing drivers.

While residents are jittery about traffic issues, others have mixed feelings about the arrival of the resort.

Stephen Baker, a real estate broker with Keller Williams Realty, said the market has been booming in Everett and other communities near the resort with new condominium projects being developed by investors.

But Joe Viglione, a longtime resident of Malden, near Everett, said developers are pressuring existing owners to sell to make way for newer multi-unit developments to serve an influx of young professionals.

He said residents also are worried about potential conflicts of interest involving government contracts with suppliers of new industries spawned by the arrival of the casino.

Economic development driver

Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox on Friday said Encore Boston Harbor has great potential as an economic development driver and will be key to the Las Vegas-based company’s growth strategy.

“This is one of the first integrated resorts in a major metropolitan area, and it’s a calling card for other states and other jurisdictions globally to think about putting large-scale integrated resorts that can create real urban renewal and economic progress,” he said Friday.

Part of that plan is directing the thousands of customers in the Wynn database to historic Boston tourist attractions such as the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house in the city’s North End. As part of its state casino license, the company is required to market Massachusetts and Boston tourism.

“I was in Macau last week,” Maddox said during a news conference, “and all they talked about there was Boston.”

Carla Pallotta, one of the owners of Nebo Cucina, led a tour of visiting journalists in Boston’s North End on Saturday and said she’s confident that more people will be interested in the lifestyle and cuisine of Boston’s Italian district than in the historic sights along the city’s famous Freedom Trail.

“They’ll come because they want to see a lifestyle they’ve never seen before,” said Pallotta, whose parents emigrated from Italy.

She figures that if Encore Boston Harbor can help get tourists to Boston, she and the North End business community can do the rest.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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