In the bustling corner quarters of Chicago’s Big Mile a large brown brick building stands out from the skyscrapers and glass panes nearby.
The iconic building of the Temple of Medina, a structure of about 130,000 square feet by 600 N. Wabash Ave. was vacant nearly two years after Macy’s retail chain moved his Bloomingdale’s store from the site. Its current owner is Chicago developer Friedman Properties, a stronghold of River North real estate.
But according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan regarding Chicago’s long-awaited casino, the Medina temple could become the site of a temporary gaming complex – to the great wrath of local elders and other opponents. Among those who are not fond of this site – the casino developer, chairman of Bally’s Su Kim.
Last week, Lightfoot decided to offer a casino, hotel and entertainment complex worth $ 1.74 billion at the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center in River West. Bally’s Rhode Island, which owns and operates 14 casinos in 10 states, hopes to make it the flagship of its network.
But the plan to house a temporary casino inside the Medina Temple while a permanent structure is under construction has been widely appreciated by area residents, Old said. Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd ward includes a temporary location. At Monday’s hearing, he called the idea “monstrous” and also rejected a recently introduced decree allowing alcohol to be served inside a temporary casino.
Currently, the Temple of Medina is located in an area where additional licenses for alcohol are prohibited. Explaining the proposed exception for the casino, Deputy Mayor Samir Maekar said it would be “compatible” with other establishments such as sports stadiums such as Wrigley Field.
Reilly said the argument was “stupid.”
“No, it’s unusual,” Reilly said. “The difference is that it would be a brand new casino in the heart of a multi-purpose downtown neighborhood, whereas stadiums … have been around for decades, and in the case of Wrigley (Field) – a century long before our alcohol moratorium.”
Maekar noted that the proposed temporary site is “surrounded” by alcohol facilities and that, in fact, the Reilly Chamber already has 748 licenses for active alcoholic beverages.
But in the immediate commercial corridor around the Medina temple, the share of retail vacancies is 25%, Maekar said, and that needs to be addressed.
“The vacancy is creating vacancies and we need to activate the temple in Medina,” Maekar said, noting the history of the building where entertainment events are held, including the Shrine Circus.
If the temporary casino gets the approval of the city and staff, Bally’s is looking to open it by the second quarter of 2023, and the permanent casino is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2026.
An eleven-hour shift from the planned temporary casino at the former Tribune Publishing warehouse to 700 W. Chicago Ave. took place by order of the city, which approached Bally’s in late April with a short list of alternative sites and a short time to get it done.
Opponents also note that Friedman Properties CEO and Medinah Temple owner Albert Friedman – a former employee of Lightfoot and other city leaders – donated $ 6,000 to the mayor’s fund on March 22, shortly before the city declared the building a temporary location. not the choice of the developer.
Chicago City Chief Financial Officer Jenny Huang Bennett said during a meeting of the casino committee on Monday that $ 2 million as “community profits” from Bally’s would support police resources around the casino’s temporary website. She added that she believes the arrival of a temporary casino could even make the area safer.
“Increased economic opportunities and pedestrian traffic draws attention to the street, which ensures safety,” Juan Bennett said. “The fact that the temple in Medina is empty creates security problems, and as Samir noted, the city sees this development as an opportunity to revitalize the central part of the city.”
The city is planning a large-scale improvement of roads around the Freedom Center, where the Tribune Publishing will be replaced by an entertainment complex. While Bally’s has an option on the nearby Tribune warehouse, the city wants to get a jump in the extension of the bridge on Chicago Avenue by derailing it as a temporary casino option, said Kim, Bally’s chairman.
Although the 110-year-old Moorish Renaissance-style temple of Medina was not Kim’s first choice, this may be the only possible option.
In addition to the Temple of Medina, alternative facilities provided by the city of Belly included the Sheraton Grand Chicago in Streeterville and several dead ends.
Kim said Belly turned to several facilities offered by the city, and most did not respond. Sheraton wanted a “pretty big price,” making it economically unfeasible, he said.
“The only one we could agree with was Medina,” Kim said.
The biggest drawback of the site in Medina is the lack of special parking, Kim said.
However, he said, the chances are strongly in favor of the Medina site, although it is still open to other ideas.
“I think it really should happen at this point,” Kim said. “So we’ll do it there.”
Deborah Gershbein, president of SOAR, the Stritterville Active Residents Organization, said members were “very, very surprised” when they learned about the casino’s temporary plans, “because it’s already such a busy area and I just can’t imagine how it would suit additional traffic ”.
“It doesn’t make any sense, to be honest,” Gershbein said. “We believe it will be detrimental to society and quality of life.”