Community meeting

Community meeting aims to allay fears over Medina temple’s temporary future as casino

Architects considering redeveloping the historic temple city center of Medina as the temporary site of a new casino want to be clear: the building’s copper domes, third-story ceiling and stained-glass windows will remain intact, preserving the architectural integrity of 1912.

Bally’s casino — which has won city approval for a new site in River West — is set to temporarily occupy the historic Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., before moving to its permanent riverfront location on Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. But the short-lived stay has raised questions about the preservation of Medinah’s River North Building, a designated landmark in Chicago since 2001.

A virtual community meeting on Tuesday — led by employees, architects and members of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s community engagement team — aimed to answer residents’ questions and allay fears of tampering with an iconic building.

The Temple of Medina, which was once an amphitheater and auditorium before becoming a commercial space, has been recognized by the city as a landmark for more than 20 years. This status will be respected and only minor adjustments to the building are planned, according to Robert Jillson and Luis Collado of STL Architects, a firm working with Bally’s.

“We allow the beauty of the window and the light to pass through it, but we create that space in between so you can’t touch the window,” said Luis Collado, of STL Architects, a firm working with Bally’s. “We both want to protect the window but at the same time we want to enjoy its beauty.”

Much of the exterior will resemble the building’s former use as a Bloomingdale’s department store, including the banner-style panels spanning the entire building vertically, rendered showcased at the reunion show.

Interior construction, if approved, would involve removing some walls installed during the 2003 renovation before Bloomingdale’s occupied the space.

The building has been empty for nearly two years since Macy’s removed the Bloomingdale’s store from the site in September 2020.

On Tuesday, some residents also raised concerns about traffic, parking, public safety, utility use, and more.

City officials have tried to allay those concerns.

“The Las Vegas Strip won’t be at your doorstep,” said Lightfoot’s Engagement Manager Martina Hone.

Another meeting will be convened to discuss issues outside of the building’s historic status, Hone said.

“What we wanted to do today was really allow you to see the architects’ vision for the beautiful and iconic Temple of Medina in its final incarnation as a temporary casino site,” Hone said.

Bally’s permanent location has been approved for construction in the River West neighborhood, but not without obstacles. A neighborhood association made several requests regarding the construction, including the extension of streets and the addition of a public park.