“Chicago has two seasons,” so the saying goes. “Winter and construction.”
The latter season is about to get much longer, considering the major projects now underway in the Windy City. A Chicagoan myself, I look forward to the city’s biggest projects with some measure of trepidation.
Will they achieve their intended goals? Will they increase traffic? What about residents? Will they be displaced or disturbed?
Such questions surround two of Chicago’s largest projects: Bally’s Casino and the Lincoln Yards.
Both developments promise entertainment hubs to the city’s denizens and surrounding suburbanites.
Lincoln Yards is billed as an urban entertainment complex. The Bally’s project will be the largest Illinois casino. Both project exist in a nebulous future, and I wonder: which will come first?
About Bally’s Chicago
Bally’s Chicago will be nestled between the River North and River West neighborhoods at the site of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant. The development is expected to cost $1.7 billion.
In December 2022, Bally’s earned the approval of the City Council for its proposed zoning plan. The company still awaits its license from the Illinois Gaming Board.
Once it clears zoning and political hurdles, Bally’s will begin construction. The current target for opening is 2026. Massive developments like this have a tendency to take much longer than originally estimated, so we’ll see whether that date comes to fruition.
The permanent casino will feature a hotel with 500 rooms, a riverwalk development, and a 3,000-seat theater. By some estimates, the casino will generate 3,000 jobs. Bally’s expects to offer 4,000 gaming positions on the property.
In the meantime, Bally’s has plans to open its temporary casino at Medinah Temple later this year.
It’s hard to say how long Bally’s Chicago will take, in reality. If all goes well, 2026 could be a reasonable target. Factoring in the various roadblocks and opposing groups that come with any major development, I’m guessing we won’t see the casino do a full-fledged opening until 2027.
Let’s look at the Lincoln Yards
Lincoln Yards has long been a twinkle in the eye of developer Sterling Bay properties. Aiming to redevelop a stretch of land formerly hosting industrial factories, Lincoln Yards will convert a 60-acre swatch of the North Side into a mixed-use complex. Offices, retail sites, residential properties, outdoor space and entertainment venues are on the docket.
The developers also plan to extend the 606 bike/walking trail, add a public riverwalk, and improve transportation options in the area.
Notably, the Lincoln yards are expected to cost $12 billion, more than sixfold what Bally’s Chicago will cost.
The Lincoln Yards website already has a link to a “Leasing” page, but it directs straight back to the developer’s homepage. Similar issues plague the site, including an option to purchase tickets to “Movies on the Lawn,” which took me to a 404 Page Not Found error on a partner site.
Of course, these hiccups (there are others I haven’t logged here) aren’t indicative of the project’s progress. Though, they do seem to be putting the carriage ahead of the horse. I’ve driven by and around the Lincoln Yards site during my day-to-day errands, and it remains a wide stretch of torn-up land, fenced in and with dilapidated “Lincoln Yards” signs draped over the barrier.
Portions of the Lincoln Yards development have made recent progress. ALLY at 1229 W Concord Place neared the final stages of its outer construction in August.
Now, Sterling Bay is eyeing the net phases of the project, according to Chicago Yimby.
Which will finish first?
These two projects are united by their goals: add modern entertainment and community complexes to Chicago’s vibrant infrastructure. In many other ways, they are vastly different.
Bally’s Chicago is a focused project, compared to the Lincoln Yards. The casino is a single, massive complex. The Lincoln Yards are a multi-faceted redevelopment of an entire neighborhood’s worth of space.
While we might see many phases of the Lincoln Yards make headway in the next few years, my guess is Bally’s will reach completion first, opening its doors in 2026 or 2027.