A rendering of what the Medinah Temple will look like as a temporary casino site for Bally's. Credit: STL Architects

RIVER NORTH — Medinah Temple’s three-story interior will need renovations as it becomes home to a temporary casino for Chicago, officials said Tuesday.

The city held its first community engagement session, asking neighbors for their feedback on and questions about the temporary Bally’s Casino set to open in the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., in River North.

The temporary casino will be used until Bally’s permanent casino and resort at the Tribune Publishing site in River West can open. The temporary casino will bring in $55 million in tax dollars, city officials have said.

Bally’s hopes to open the Medinah Temple temporary facility by June, with company officials saying the temporary site will be used for two to three years.

The temporary casino was supposed to be at 700 W. Chicago Ave. — a former Tribune advertising insertion plant — but its location was changed to Medinah Temple after concerns were raised about traffic in and out of the Chicago Avenue location during construction of the permanent site. But the temple will need renovations to fit the casino, officials said Tuesday.

The exterior of Medinah Temple will remain largely untouched except for the flags and signs, which will be exchanged for Bally’s signs. Credit: STL Architects

Attendees at the virtual meeting submitted questions about traffic, preventing crime, parking and whether the site will be outfitted with bullet-proof glass over the historical stained glass windows. But city officials said the meeting was to specifically discuss the preservation of the landmark building.

Martina Hone, the city’s chief engagement officer, said there will be another meeting within 60 days to address neighbors’ questions.

Bally’s has teamed up with local architectural firm STL Architects to renovate Medinah Temple for casino use, officials said.

The exterior of the building is protected by landmark status, so the only changes there will include swapping out the building’s Bloomingdale’s signs and flags for those of Bally’s.

Photos of the interior of Medinah Temple’s first floor shows what the interior currently looks like. Credit: STL Architects

The most extensive part of the renovations will be for the three-story interior, which was last renovated in 2003. Plans include removing existing walls that where added by Bloomingdale’s to overhaul the space for retail purposes.

The walls being removed have no contact to the exterior walls of the building, presenters from STL Architects said.

The plans will go before the Chicago Landmark Commission Review Committee Aug. 4 and must be approved before construction can begin.

An example of what walls will be removed on the second floor to renovate the interior for a temporary casino site. Credit: STL Architects

By state statute, the Illinois Gaming Board limits the operation of a temporary facility to two years, with an option to extend for an additional 12 months. Bally’s plans to use Medinah Temple for two to three years, said Chris Jewett, vice president of corporate development for Bally’s.

City officials said the permanent and temporary facilities can’t legally operate at the same time, according to Illinois Gaming Board. As soon as the permanent site opens, the temporary one will close.

Once Bally’s exits the temporary site, Medinah Temple will be up for grabs for a new tenant, said Noah Szafraniec, with the city’s planning and develpoment department.

Bally’s overall proposal still awaits final approval from the Illinois Gaming Board. The casino got City Council’s OK in late May, and it is estimated it will generate $200 million annually for the city by its second year in business.

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