(Above) Medinah Temple, seen across Wabash Avenue, which may be a casino while a Bally’s is being built on Chicago Avenue.
9-May-22 – A proposed ‘temporary casino’ in River North, as a $1.7 billion Bally’s is built further west, doesn’t sit well with potential neighbors.
The casino would be located in the Medinah Temple at Wabash Avenue and Ohio Street, which has been vacant since Bloomingdale’s moved its home and furniture store in 2020.
The temporary location has been part of the plan for a Chicago casino since March. It was included in the announcement made on May 5 by the mayor Lori Lightfoot that Bally’s Corporation has been selected to build a casino at Chicago Avenue & Halsted Street, the site of the Tribune Publishing Center.
The proposal still needs to be approved by the Chicago City Council and the Illinois Gaming Board.
Municipal councilor of the 42nd arrondissement Brendan Reilly says he was “extremely frustrated” with the announcements and will vote “no” to both casinos.
In his ballot to voters on Friday, Reilly said he heard from more than 1,200 downtown residents, and 80% of them oppose a casino in River North. The Tribune site, located just across the Chicago River from River North, is in a “quiet, residential” neighborhood, he says, and “not the appropriate location for a large entertainment venue.” .
The site, Reilly says, “has a lot of traffic issues that currently make it difficult to get around and traverse the area.”
It wouldn’t be easy for the temporary River North casino to get a liquor license. The Medina Temple is located in an area in which, since 2017, a moratorium has prevented new liquor licenses from operations other than restaurants. Reilly says he has no plans to lift the moratorium.
Reilly says the casino should be located near downtown and McCormick Place, but in an area that needs “a useful boost in economic investment.”
“The casino would have a positive impact on the creation of local jobs and amenities in nearby neighborhood commercial corridors. Downtown doesn’t need this rare economic opportunity, but surely many neighborhoods could benefit from this boost,” said Reilly (left).
Casino creating traffic, crime and other problems, neighborhood group says
The River North Residents Association normally says it favors real estate development in its neighborhood, but its members oppose the location of the Chicago Avenue casino. President of the RNRA Brian Israel says of 2,400 people who responded to their casino survey, 86 percent are opposed.
Bally’s, according to Israel, “does not have the experience, expertise and financial means to execute a project of this scale and complexity in a comparable urban environment”.
“The traffic, noise, strain on infrastructure, and disruption that this development would produce are unreasonable burdens to impose on the surrounding neighborhood, and the tax revenue generated by this casino would likely come at the cost of increased crime, from reduced property values, gambling addiction problems and a regressive economic impact on the community as a whole,” Israel (right) said.
The Medina Temple was built in 1912 by Huehl and Schmidt, who were architects and Shriners. Originally an auditorium, it hosted the annual Shrine Circus. It was a retail space from 2000 to 2019, then sold to Chicago developer Albert Friedman.