Earlier this month, the city held town hall meetings for each of the three proposals and got an earful from neighbors opposed to a casino being built close to their homes. Their overwhelming message: Not in my backyard.
“This casino does not belong in a neighborhood,” said Antonio Romanucci, a resident of River North, where the Bally’s casino would be built, if approved. “You are putting a square peg into a round hole.”
Others at the Bally’s meeting raised concerns about traffic, crime and noise from concerts…
And while The 78 is marketed as an entirely new neighborhood, residents from the South Loop, Chinatown and Pilsen spoke in opposition to including a casino in the already approved megadevelopment.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don’t blow it on a casino,” said an 11-year-old named Sean, who spoke at the town hall for the Rivers 78 proposal. “A casino does not make a neighborhood. Things that attract families are what make a neighborhood.”
Last week, Lightfoot responded to the community blowback saying there is always “a level of NIMBYism” with large development projects.
Generally, communities and cities tend to like developments that will generate significant revenues. People spend money at casinos and using the property to generate revenues is preferable to having vacant properties or ones with limited revenues.
However, a casino is not a typical land use. They are relatively unusual. They can attract a lot of visitors. They can be viewed as encouraging vice and unsavory activity.
So, the mayor’s claims that this is just NIMBYism might not work with a more unusual land use like this. Sure, residents tend to complain about changes to traffic, lights, noise, and property values with a new nearby development, but does anyone want to live next to a casino?
Watching the decision-making process on this one might just make a fascinating case study for urban scholars for years to come.