Chicago is on the verge of making a decision this month about whether to approve the modified plans for the Bally’s River West casino and entertainment complex.
The significance of this development stems from Bally’s decision to alter its initial proposal due to concerns from the city that the original hotel design might affect underground water lines. This has led to calls for a more thorough examination and increased input from the community.
In response to these concerns, city departments are currently reviewing updated design proposals. These modifications involve moving and scaling down the initially planned hotel from a 500-room skyscraper to a three-story building with 100 rooms.
However, a spokesperson from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has stated that the project will still include 500 hotel rooms in total. The plan now is to situate the remaining 400 rooms close to the casino on a site that has yet to be finalized.
This development follows the Chicago City Council’s strong endorsement of Bally’s original proposal to construct a casino, hotel, restaurants, and theater on the grounds of the former Chicago Tribune Freedom Center in late 2022.
Despite the overall approval, Aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly, representing wards adjacent to the proposed site, initially opposed the project. Their concerns revolved around the potential for increased traffic and public safety issues. Moreover, Reilly criticized the process for being hastily conducted and lacking in transparency, with reports suggesting that the project is now under investigation by both the U.S. attorney’s office and Chicago’s inspector general, according to Crain’s.
In the wake of the revised plans being publicized last month, both the Sun-Times and Crain’s have published editorials urging for greater public engagement in the review process and questioning how the infrastructure problems were overlooked until recently.
Community representatives and experts were briefed on the new proposals last month and are currently providing feedback to both the city and Bally’s, as facilitated by the River North Residents Association (RNRA).