Why not the Brach site for a new casino?

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Arlene Jones

The gambling bill authorizing a land-based casino for Chicago awaits only Gov. Quinn's signature. As of this writing, he's been playing a game of posturing. Quinn has some "alleged" concerns for the welfare of the people (those same concerns were nowhere in sight when he raised our income taxes), but in the end we can still expect Chicago to get a casino.

Now the next big question is, where to place it?

Already some businesspeople are clamoring for the casino to be somewhere downtown. They are interested in the number of people who will be drawn to it. The newspapers have also chimed in, with one even doing an editorial saying that the casino should be "near" downtown.

But here's the truth of the matter about a casino in Chicago: It has to be where people can get to it. If you have to fight downtown traffic (and right now that is anything east of Western, south of Fullerton and north of Cermak, then you are asking people to deal with what no casino wants - a traffic nightmare for those trying to get to it. Nothing will discourage a gambler like having to fight traffic to get there.

The sites mentioned downtown have those drawbacks. Northerly Island will be affected by anything held at Soldier Field. Block 37 across from Marshall Field's - oops, y'all may call it Macy's - is in the heart of downtown. The old main post office sits at the edge of the Eisenhower traffic nightmare. And the Michael Reese site is a nightmare because it suffers from both Soldier Field and White Sox traffic nightmares.

So where should the new Chicago casino go? Well, I'm still advocating for it to be placed in the best spot of all: Right here on the West Side on the site of the old Brach candy factory, Cicero Avenue just north of Lake Street.

That site is already serviced by the CTA's Green Line. The Metra tracks are right next to it. And the best reason of all: the abandoned railroad line just to the east of the property could connect O'Hare Airport to Midway Airport using a bullet train.

A bullet train can travel up to 220 mph. It's about 26 miles between the two airports. A bullet train could make it from one airport to the other in less than 10 minutes, with only one stop in between and that would be the casino built on the old Brach site. In addition, the Eisenhower Expressway is just a mile south of the Brach site.

From a transportation perspective (and that is the most important perspective) it's a winner.

In my vision, the casino would serve as the "anchor." I still support a Black Entertainment complex, which would include a theatre, a banquet hall, a hotel and a shopping center - a total economic boost for Austin and the neglected West Side. The jobs it could bring would be enumerable, jobs that many who are out of work could do. From building the casino complex to maintaining and supplementing it, the cooks, casino hosts, hotel management, security, cashiers, dealers, valet parkers, store clerks, using West Side musicians, everyone can benefit.

Even businesses outside the complex would cash in on the traffic. How many times do people hate to leave their cars for an oil change, detailing or repairs because there's nothing to do while they wait for the work to be completed? Well, offer a service (prepaid) to do it while the people are at "the boat."

The city claims it wants the casino to focus on the "tourist" who comes to Chicago. Well, if you want a casino that tourists can stop at on their way to or from the airport, or get to easily from downtown, the Brach site fits the bill. It would boost the use of public transportation by putting them on either the el or the Metra.

As for those who wanted that site to go off the tax rolls and become a new school for Austin, let me offer an excellent alternative. Right now surrounding Michelle Clark High School is a 2-acre parcel just east of the campus, plus the vacated former Shorebank site across the street. Those two parcels of land, in addition to the current school, could best be used for a new high school. The Blue Line el, Rockne Stadium and Columbus Park are all in the vicinity to complement the new school.

Our black elected officials should begin the fight to get some major economic development located on this side of town. I'd like to see people get on board with the attitude that we can make this work. The naysayers are many, but they don't offer anything beyond saying no.

Tune in this Sunday night to the Garfield Major Show on WRLL 1450-AM from 10 until

Why not the Brach site for a new casino?

he gambling bill authorizing a land-based casino for Chicago awaits only Gov. Quinn's signature. As of this writing, he's been playing a game of posturing. Quinn has some "alleged" concerns for the welfare of the people (those same concerns were nowhere in sight when he raised our income taxes), but in the end we can still expect Chicago to get a casino.

Now the next big question is, where to place it?

Already some businesspeople are clamoring for the casino to be somewhere downtown. They are interested in the number of people who will be drawn to it. The newspapers have also chimed in, with one even doing an editorial saying that the casino should be "near" downtown.

But here's the truth of the matter about a casino in Chicago: It has to be where people can get to it. If you have to fight downtown traffic (and right now that is anything east of Western, south of Fullerton and north of Cermak, then you are asking people to deal with what no casino wants - a traffic nightmare for those trying to get to it. Nothing will discourage a gambler like having to fight traffic to get there.

The sites mentioned downtown have those drawbacks. Northerly Island will be affected by anything held at Soldier Field. Block 37 across from Marshall Field's - oops, y'all may call it Macy's - is in the heart of downtown. The old main post office sits at the edge of the Eisenhower traffic nightmare. And the Michael Reese site is a nightmare because it suffers from both Soldier Field and White Sox traffic nightmares.

So where should the new Chicago casino go? Well, I'm still advocating for it to be placed in the best spot of all: Right here on the West Side on the site of the old Brach candy factory, Cicero Avenue just north of Lake Street.

That site is already serviced by the CTA's Green Line. The Metra tracks are right next to it. And the best reason of all: the abandoned railroad line just to the east of the property could connect O'Hare Airport to Midway Airport using a bullet train.

A bullet train can travel up to 220 mph. It's about 26 miles between the two airports. A bullet train could make it from one airport to the other in less than 10 minutes, with only one stop in between and that would be the casino built on the old Brach site. In addition, the Eisenhower Expressway is just a mile south of the Brach site.

From a transportation perspective (and that is the most important perspective) it's a winner.

In my vision, the casino would serve as the "anchor." I still support a Black Entertainment complex, which would include a theatre, a banquet hall, a hotel and a shopping center - a total economic boost for Austin and the neglected West Side. The jobs it could bring would be enumerable, jobs that many who are out of work could do. From building the casino complex to maintaining and supplementing it, the cooks, casino hosts, hotel management, security, cashiers, dealers, valet parkers, store clerks, using West Side musicians, everyone can benefit.

Even businesses outside the complex would cash in on the traffic. How many times do people hate to leave their cars for an oil change, detailing or repairs because there's nothing to do while they wait for the work to be completed? Well, offer a service (prepaid) to do it while the people are at "the boat."

The city claims it wants the casino to focus on the "tourist" who comes to Chicago. Well, if you want a casino that tourists can stop at on their way to or from the airport, or get to easily from downtown, the Brach site fits the bill. It would boost the use of public transportation by putting them on either the el or the Metra.

As for those who wanted that site to go off the tax rolls and become a new school for Austin, let me offer an excellent alternative. Right now surrounding Michelle Clark High School is a 2-acre parcel just east of the campus, plus the vacated former Shorebank site across the street. Those two parcels of land, in addition to the current school, could best be used for a new high school. The Blue Line el, Rockne Stadium and Columbus Park are all in the vicinity to complement the new school.

Our black elected officials should begin the fight to get some major economic development located on this side of town. I'd like to see people get on board with the attitude that we can make this work. The naysayers are many, but they don't offer anything beyond saying no.

Tune in this Sunday night to the Garfield Major Show on WRLL 1450-AM from 10 until midnight for a discussion about using the Brach site for a casino. The show can now be heard over the Internet at www.wrll1450.com. At the top, click for the English version and then the "listen live" button.

www.arlenejones.blogspot.com

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