Medinah Temple temporary casino proposal gets green light from traffic study

CHICAGO (CBS) — The temporary casino coming to Medinah Temple in River North has received the stamp of approval by a new traffic study.

Commissioned by the city and prepared by V3 Companies and the Fish Transportation Group, the study found that the River North area will be able to handle the increase in traffic that comes from the casino.

The study also recommended that valet parking operations be set up on Ohio Street alongside the Medinah Temple building, with rideshare providers using the curb space on Ohio Street west of the valet area – and charter and shuttle buses loading and unloading along the west side of Wabash Avenue.

Further, the study recommended that traffic control aides be posted onsite during peak casino activity periods.


Not everyone is in agreement with the conclusions of the study.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) called the study “seriously flawed,” “overly vague,” and “clearly written for the sole purpose of concluding a casino will work at Medinah Temple.”

He accused the study researchers of a number of failures, from “vastly low-balling the number of vehicular trips to the casino” to “vastly overestimating the number of people who will be dumb enough to take the CTA or walk to this casino with cash in their pockets.”

Reilly was also dismissive of contentions in the study that valet operations would be beneficial for traffic conditions.

“If you can show me one valet in the City of Chicago that has ever ‘improved traffic conditions’ at a particular location, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn,” he wrote.

“Having read literally hundreds of traffic studies over the years, I can tell you this one is thin gruel and lacks the credibility that an independent analysis would’ve provided,” Reilly concluded.

Bally’s plans to open a temporary casino in the landmark Medinah Temple building in River North in the second quarter of 2023, with the permanent casino in River West expected to open in the first quarter of 2026.

The Medinah Temple was built in 1912 for the Masonic Order of the Mystic Shrine on Wabash Avenue – then called Cass Street – between Ontario and Ohio streets. The ornate Moorish revival building originally housed a 4,200-seat auditorium that over the decades featured events such as the annual Shrine Circus, Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings, concerts featuring A-listers, and live performances of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor. The auditorium featured a 92-rank Austin pipe organ.

In 2001, the Medinah Temple and neighboring Tree Studios artists’ residence were redeveloped, and in 2003, a Bloomingdale’s Home and Furniture store opened in the Medinah Temple building. The Bloomingdale’s store closed in 2020 and the building is now vacant.

The choice to house the temporary casino at Medinah Temple if the mayor’s plan was considered a big victory for its current owner, Friedman Properties.

River North developer Albert Friedman donated $600,000 to Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign the same day she narrowed casino bids from five to three.

But with the Medinah Temple being right next to the Grand Avenue CTA Red Line stop, neighbors this past spring said they worry a casino there will just add to River North crime – which has been sseeing a major spike.