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City Sells Block 37, Loses $20 Million

By Margaret Lyons in News on Oct 13, 2004 4:00PM

Oh, Block 37. We'll never tire of your absurd saga. You have so much potential, you're so conveniently located near Old Navy, you're so sought-after and fought-over; baby, look at you now. Oh, yeah, you're still a mostly empty lot. But we can see through that, through the politicking, the squandered possibility, past that strange but ultimately cool Con-Ed painting, right into your heart. And you know what that heart says? "Sell me, and make me into a casino." Aww. You're pretty.

2004_10_13.slots.jpgThe City of Chicago is selling Block 37 to a developer for $12.3 million, which is a steal considering the city bought it for $32.5 million two years ago. The city is willing to bite it on this one because the restrictions they've placed on the development make the property less valuable. Uh, right. The Sun-Times calls the $20.2 million a "subsidy," to which Mills, the development company, is entitled because of they have to accommodate a "CTA project and…underground pedways."

"'We also recognize the developer is entitled to a reasonable profit,' said Terri Haymaker, deputy commissioner for the downtown region." OK, there's something kind of wrong with that logic, right? Like, since when does the city swallow a $20 million-loss just because someone's entitled to something? For example: we're all entitled to healthcare. Affordable housing. Equitable education. Transit. Clean air. Transparent government. OK, now that there are dead horse parts all over the place, we can move on to the juicy shit: casino casino casino.

Mayor Daley has been pushing for a city-owned casino for a while now, and depending on how the vote goes at the state legislature, Block 37 could be the place to do it. Block 37 would be a good spot for gambling because "It's close to Millennium Park; it's close to State Street; it's near Michigan Avenue," according to city Planning Commissioner Denise Casalino. Not to be a bastard on this, but what the hay: Block 37? Actually on State Street. Quibble-de-quibble.

While Casalino and Steve Jacobsen, Mills' executive vice president, admitted that the city and developer had "agreed to agree there might be a casino" (promising!), folks at City Hall were a little reluctant to endorse the deal. A spokesman for the Planning Department said a casino is "not in the cards right now," which we'd like to nominate for clever phrasing of the day. Other mysterious officials said "it would be 'unseemly' to invite gamblers to a site adjacent to local government offices and the courts." Yes, god knows how pristine, mob-free, and righteous City Hall is.