Defining the Vision: Redesigning a Modern Chicago Casino Experience

Chicago, are you feeling lucky?

Chicago Department of Planning and Development released the site plan of Bally’s $1.7 Billion Chicago Casino this week.


The new mixed-use project replaces Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center, which was located on a 30-acre plot between the Chicago River & Halsted Street south of Chicago Avenue. Plans have been revised to include a casino and food hall, restaurants, theaters and event spaces, VIP areas, museum and exhibition space, VIP areas and a 500-key luxury hotel. The site will be open space for a third of its area, with community access to Chicago River.

Bally’s says in a release that the “riverfront location” is being hailed for its potential to be a springboard of the next generation of entertainment. It will also be the first mixed-use gaming resort and complex located in the middle of a major metropolis.

What should the design of a modern city casino be?

There’s no doubt that there is something better than the current vision.

The second version of the design is not up to Chicago’s high standards. The first phase and heart of the complex is an unremarkable lozenge-shaped hotel tower with a glass facade at Chicago Avenue. A tail structure of about 1,000 feet long will house the casino, as well as other functions, stretching along the west side of the North Branch.

It looks like a drab, banal design that’s meant to last a few years at most.

Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox told the Chicago Sun-Times that this new packaging is “meant to recall the industrial language” of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center printing plant, which currently occupies the site. Maurice Cox, Planning and Development commissioner at the Chicago Sun-Times, told the newspaper that the new packaging was “meant” to “recall the industrial language” from the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center Printing Plant that currently occupies this site. This is an odd reference because the building in question is a brick-clad 1980s pasteiche of pseudo-industrial architecture whose pedestrian-like form is hard to miss.

The Tribune’s solitary structure is a good example of a building that has seen better times than its designers.