Chicago Casino Deals: Hard Rock Launches One Central Site, As Residents Express Concern

On Tuesday, a wild card in the game of would-be Chicago casino developers tried to win a crowded auditorium of South Loop residents expressing concern over increased traffic and crime that could ‘destroy the quality of life’ in their neighborhood if the city’s much sought-after gambling den is placed near Soldier Field.

Representatives of the proposed Hard Rock Chicago touted the group’s minority investment commitment, business acumen and community connections while outlining their plan to build a casino on the Metra tracks next to Du Sable. Lake Shore Drive near 18th Street.

Hard Rock is one of three finalists chosen by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to land the coveted Chicago casino license. The developers put their tokens on the table in front of a crowd of 385 at the Harold Washington Library in the first of three finalist public presentations due to be delivered this week in their respective host communities.

Representatives from the Hard Rock Chicago casino make a public presentation Tuesday at the Harold Washington Library.

Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Hard Rock’s pitch was initially seen in industry circles as a long shot to land the offer due to its ties to a massive, adjacent development that depends on $6.5 billion in public funds from the State that have not been approved. This development, dubbed One Central, envisions a massive retail hub and transit hub – and is already facing significant community opposition.

Development group Hard Rock said its proposal will go ahead regardless of whether the full One Central project comes to fruition or not, but residents told executives on Tuesday it’s still on their minds.

“You’ve come up with a full proposal, but One Central is the grindstone around your neck,” a resident said during a controversial Q&A session, voicing the issue that elicited the most responses in the written question format. from the city. “The community doesn’t want it.

Bob Dunn of Landmark Development – who is behind the One Central proposal and is part of the Hard Rock group which also includes the Florida-based gaming giant and Chicago-based Loop Capital – reiterated his group’s insistence so that their $1.7 billion casino project can continue with or without the publicly funded project.

“Hard Rock Chicago is in no way related to the development or funding of the larger One Central project,” Dunn said. “These are separate projects.

Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen went further, saying “we have nothing to do with this massive project” – and noting that the casino would be funded entirely from corporate coffers and private loans, and not with taxpayers’ money.

But the specter of One Central and the potential complications of the construction site also haunt city officials who have assessed their project.

In a report released last month when Lightfoot narrowed the casino’s finalists to five, city officials wrote that the company’s timeline “could be aggressive” given the bureaucracy to innovate.

On its own, the casino would need approvals from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Metra and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which operates McCormick Place. The Hard Rock site abuts the northern end of the vast exhibition complex.

An overview of the proposed map of the Hard Rock Chicago casino.

An overview of the proposed map of the Hard Rock Chicago casino.

“The significant number of approvals required creates execution risk for this proposal and the possibility of construction delays,” the city’s report said.

But city officials also believe Hard Rock could generate about $185.3 million for the city each year — the second highest of the three finalists. The casino’s city tax revenue goes to its depleted pension funds for the police and fire department.

The Hard Rock plan also includes a 3,500-seat concert hall, a 500-room hotel and outdoor green space.

Artist's impression of an entrance to the Hard Rock Chicago casino project.

Artist’s impression of an entrance to the Hard Rock Chicago casino project.

Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds said their group would have “unprecedented levels of minority investment”, with half of the ownership group comprising black and brown investors. Minority investment is among the priorities Lightfoot listed in its selection process.

Other residents provided written comments decrying the project as “threatening the quality of life in the neighborhood” due to increased traffic and noise.

These issues are sure to be raised in the public hearings for the other finalists: a proposed Bally’s casino at the Chicago Tribune’s River West printing press; and a Rivers Casino targeting the South Loop land known as The 78, south of Roosevelt Road and west of Clark Street.

The mayor has set up a city council committee to narrow down a finalist in the coming months. That bidder would then need to seek state approval.

Bally’s presentation will take place Wednesday at the Tribune site, 700 W. Chicago Ave. The Rivers 78 site will be discussed Thursday at UIC’s Dorin Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt.