Neighborhood groups, alderman still skeptical of casino plan for River North
Loop North News

(Above) From a traffic impact study prepared for the City of Chicago, a map of the area around Medinah Temple that shows “curb management” planned for the temporary casino, such as where parking is allowed, and locations of bus stops, taxi stands, and valet.

4-Oct-22 – Enthusiasm by the mayor’s office for a temporary casino in River North does not appear to be shared with future neighbors of the casino or their alderman.

A traffic impact study, prepared for the City of Chicago, concludes the area near Medinah Temple, 600 North Wabash Avenue, can support a temporary casino while a $1.7 billion Bally’s is built farther west at Chicago Avenue & Halsted Street, the site of the Tribune Publishing Center.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, however, called the study “seriously flawed, overly vague, and clearly written for the sole purpose of concluding a casino will work at Medinah Temple.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman

The plan still needs approval by the Chicago City Council and Illinois Gaming Board, but Bally’s estimates the temporary casino will open in the second quarter of 2023, with the permanent location opening in early 2026.

(Left) Medinah Temple from across Wabash Avenue.

The study, by V3 Companies and Fish Transportation Group, notes the temporary casino would be situated among nearby restaurants and bars, and “would be a very complimentary land use in the area.”

Though making suggestions on the location of valet operations, the study says the area “should be able to accommodate” valet drop-offs and pick-ups, as well as charter and shuttle buses.

Reilly says he disagrees with assumptions made in the traffic study, saying the estimate of vehicular trips to the casino is too low, and that the study over-estimates the number of people “who will be dumb enough to take the CTA or walk to this casino with cash in their pockets.”

(Right) Reilly with Streeterville Organization of Active Residents president Deborah Gershbein (far left in photo) at a SOAR event in 2017.

Streeterville Organization of Active Residents

The study, says Reilly, suggests that valet operations at the casino will improve traffic conditions in the area, but he is skeptical.

“If you can show me one valet in the city of Chicago that has ever ‘improved traffic conditions’ at a particular location, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn,” he said.

Casino opposed by residents of River North and Streeterville

Two neighborhood groups, meanwhile, remain opposed to the temporary casino. River North Residents Association says 86 percent of 2,311 members responding to a survey do not want the casino in their neighborhood. RNRA says it met with representatives of Bally’s for several hours on July 7 to review a list of 42 recommendations that “address essential issues involving this project.”

At its July 19 board meeting, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents voted unanimously to oppose the temporary casino, which will be located two blocks from that neighborhood’s western border.

In a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on August 11, SOAR President Deborah Gershbein shared concerns of how a 24/7 casino would impact traffic congestion and public safety. Her organization’s recommendations include extra security patrols outside the casino, closing the casino nightly between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m., and offering parking near the permanent site with free shuttle service to the temporary site.

Gershbein says they will request a meeting with Bally’s to review the traffic impact study “and to continue our discussion.”

A 19-person panel announced by the mayor’s office on September 8, to “meet quarterly to discuss the project and address issues raised by community members,” includes representatives of River North Residents Association, Neighbors of River West, West Loop Community Organization, and Cabrini-Green LAC Community Corporation.

• Contact Steven Dahlman at sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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