Bally’s Adjusts Chicago Casino Plans

Bally’s officials told attendees at the final community engagement meeting that the $1.7 billion Chicago casino (l.) plan will offer more green space and additional traffic congestion solutions, in response to area residents’ requests.

At the latest and final community engagement meeting about Bally’s $1.7 billion downtown Chicago casino, company officials said in response to residents’ requests that the project design will include more green space and traffic solutions.

Earlier, also responding to residents’ concerns, Bally’s officials canceled a proposed pedestrian bridge over the river. Besides the casino, project plans also include a hotel, theater and outdoor music venue.

Brad McCauley, a landscape architect with Site Design Group, told attendees, “We want people to come in through the green and really enjoy their time whether or not they’re going to the casino.” Christine Carlyle, director of planning at SCB Architects added, the updated design places the casino at the center of a “series of experiences,” including a river walk lined with restaurants, bars, seating areas and water access.

Bally’s West Senior Vice President Ameet Patel assured attendees the casino will not resemble a “glitzy Las Vegas Strip joint.” He said bright lights and loud concerts will be held indoors, with outdoor spaces preserved for public recreation.

He stated, “Look at where this process was in the green space six months ago, and look at where we are today. We have expanded the dog park. We have expanded the green space. We have expanded the riverwalk. This is a productive exercise that we want to continue for months to come. Let’s all be part of the solution and continue this dialogue.”

During the 90-minute public comment period, several speakers praised Bally’s willingness to adjust designs after receiving feedback. However, many area residents who spoke said they’re still concerned about increased traffic and noise. Tim Doron, senior traffic consultant at Fish Transportation Group, said traffic probably will increase at night, but not during rush hour. He said more than 30 traffic improvements are planned, including additional signals and street extensions.

A temporary Bally’s casino is expected to open in June at the historic Medinah Temple in River North. It will operate for three years while the permanent venue is built at the current site of the Freedom Center, where the Chicago Tribune has long been printed.

On December 12, the city’s Plan Commission will hold a hearing on a proposed zoning amendment for the casino site. Chicago officials have said the Bally’s facility will generate $200 million in annual tax revenue for the city.