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A short lived on line casino at Medinah Temple? ‘Terrible’ thought, says …

On a hectic nook blocks from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a sprawling brown-bricked construction stands proud from the skyscrapers and glass panes close by.

The landmark Medinah Temple construction, the kind of 130,000-square-foot construction at 600 N. Wabash Ave. has been vacant for just about two years after retail chain Macy’s moved its Bloomingdale’s retailer out of the web site. Chicago developer Friedman Homes, a mainstay in River North actual property, is its present proprietor.

However beneath Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan for Chicago’s long-awaited on line casino, the Medinah Temple may well be the web site of a brief playing complicated — a lot to the ire of the native alderman and different fighters. Amongst the ones lower than keen about the web site is the on line casino developer, Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim.

Ultimate week, Lightfoot selected to place ahead a $1.74 billion on line casino, lodge and leisure building at what’s now the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Middle printing plant in River West. Rhode Island-based Bally’s, which owns and manages 14 casinos in 10 states, hopes to make this one the flagship of its chain.

However the plan to place the brief on line casino within Medinah Temple whilst the everlasting construction is beneath building has been broadly panned via house citizens, mentioned Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose forty second Ward contains the brief location. At a listening to Monday, he known as the speculation “terrible,” and he additionally balked at a newly offered ordinance to permit liquor to be served within the brief on line casino.

Medinah Temple is recently positioned in a zone that prohibits further liquor licenses. In explaining the proposed exception for casinos, Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar mentioned it might be “constant” with different institutions like sports activities stadiums akin to Wrigley Box.

Reilly mentioned that argument used to be “baloney.”

“No, that’s abnormal,” Reilly mentioned. “The variation is this could be a brand-new on line casino in the course of a mixed-use group downtown, while the stadiums … were round for many years and in Wrigley (Box)’s case, a century, which lengthy predates our liquor moratorium.”

Mayekar famous the proposed brief web site is “surrounded” via alcohol-serving institutions and that, actually, Reilly’s ward already has 748 lively liquor licenses.

However the rapid business hall round Medinah Temple has a 25% retail emptiness price, Mayekar mentioned, and that must be addressed.

“Emptiness begets emptiness, and we will have to turn on the Medinah Temple,” Mayekar mentioned, noting the construction’s historical past of web hosting leisure that integrated the Shrine Circus.

If the brief on line casino receives town and team of workers approval, Bally’s goals to open it via the second one quarter of 2023, with the everlasting on line casino slated to open within the first quarter of 2026.

The eleventh-hour shift from a deliberate brief on line casino at a former Tribune Publishing warehouse at 700 W. Chicago Ave. got here on the behest of the town, which approached Bally’s in overdue April with a shortlist of other websites and a short while to get it performed.

Fighters have additionally famous that Friedman Homes CEO and Medinah Temple proprietor Albert Friedman — a previous contributor to Lightfoot and different town leaders — gave the mayor’s marketing campaign fund $6,000 on March 22, in a while ahead of the town introduced the construction because the brief location, as a substitute of the developer’s selection.

Town of Chicago Leader Monetary Officer Jennie Huang Bennett mentioned all over Monday’s on line casino committee assembly that $2 million in “group advantages” from Bally’s will beef up police sources across the brief on line casino web site. She added that she believes the arriving of a brief on line casino may even make the world more secure.

“Greater financial alternative and foot visitors brings eyes in the street, which brings protection,” Huang Bennett mentioned. “The truth that the Medinah Temple is vacant creates questions of safety and, as Samir famous, the town sees this building as a possibility to revitalize the downtown house.”

Town is making plans in depth roadwork enhancements across the Freedom Middle web site, the place Tribune Publishing’s printing plant could be supplanted via the leisure complicated. Whilst Bally’s has an choice at the adjoining Tribune warehouse, the town desires to get a soar on widening the Chicago Street bridge, derailing that as a brief on line casino choice, mentioned Kim, the Bally’s chairman.

Even though the 110-year-old, Moorish Revival-style Medinah Temple used to be no longer Kim’s first selection, it can be the one viable choice.

But even so Medinah Temple, the other websites introduced to Bally’s via the town integrated the Sheraton Grand Chicago in Streeterville and a handful of useless ends.

Kim mentioned Bally’s reached out to a number of of the town’s recommended websites and maximum didn’t reply. The Sheraton sought after a “lovely giant worth,” making it economically unfeasible, he mentioned.

“The one one who shall we come to business phrases with used to be Medinah,” Kim mentioned.

The largest problem to the Medinah web site is the loss of devoted parking, Kim mentioned.

Nonetheless, he mentioned, the percentages are strongly in desire of the Medinah web site, despite the fact that he’s nonetheless open to different concepts.

“I believe that at this level, that’s the place it realistically must occur,” Kim mentioned. “So we’re going to do it there.”

Deborah Gershbein, president of SOAR, the Streeterville Group of Lively Citizens, mentioned participants have been “very, very shocked” to be informed of the brief on line casino plans “as a result of it’s this type of congested house already, and I simply can’t believe how it might accommodate the extra visitors.”

“It simply doesn’t make any sense in any respect, frankly,” Gershbein mentioned. “We do assume it might be damaging to the group and our high quality of existence.”

ayin@chicagotribune.com

rchannick@chicagotribune.com


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