Blackhawk hotel focus of casino input meeting -QCTimes
I finally made it to one of the new round of casino elections, and it was pretty interesting.
The meeting started out with Clayton recapping the previous meetings, and giving some revised money figures, as mentioned in the QCTimes article. Basically there's a real difference between what IOC would like to pay and what the RiverCenter is actually worth. Keep in mind that its the city coming right out with this info, and not claiming its only worth what IOC wants to pay or anything sneaky like that.
After the recap, the representatives from Restoration St. Louis presented, and were especially impressive. That is the company that has been chosen to renovate the Blackhawk. Someday. Hopefully. They showed off some of their 100+ projects in the StL area, and some were very similar to, and actually in worse shape than the Blackhawk. They also showed some artist's renderings and possible floorplans for the Blackhawk, including a possible mix of hotel, residential, retail and office. Even the anti-gambling folks who were constantly making rude comments and saying how gambling should leave Davenport were impressed by the Blackhawk plans. The only problem is that IOC is having second thoughts about giving away the building for $1. There was a definite consensus that this group needs to be allowed to get started on their project.
During the Q&A section, it became very clear that probably none of the people at the meeting thought the casino moving into the RiverCenter was a good idea. There were a lot of people that wanted it to move out of downtown entirely. Unfortunately city staff failed to point out that in addition to the questionable RSM McGladrey study's claim that it would be more profitable downtown, there is also an incentive for the city to keep them down there as leverage for the riverfront CAT grant. A number of people seemed against gambling entirely, but that really had no relevance at the meeting since gambling has been approved by voters several times. Finally Keith Meyer came up to the microphone and asked a rambling "question" that pointed out that he tried to get the SCC Culinary Arts program into the RiverCenter, and asked whether the city had explored the option of moving eServ into the RiverCenter, since the appraisal showed it being worth less than they're planning to spend out on 53rd. Apparently he pictures hundreds of cubicles laid out across the vast floorspace of RiverCenter South. After finishing speaking, I'm pretty sure I saw him storm out of the building.
Following the somewhat confrontational Q&A section, all the tables were given maps of downtown, along with Legos representing parking, casino space, convention space, and hotel rooms. The image on the right shows the current situation. White was parking, gray=hotel, red=casino, and yellow=convention space. We were supposed to place them wherever we wanted around downtown, as a design exercise. This caused another outbreak of anger because people were only given a map of downtown, and many don't want the casino downtown. My table consisted of myself, Joe Taylor, and Jen Olsen. Kind of an interesting mixture of opinions, although we agreed on more than I would have expected. I built my previously stated dream plan out of Legos, and they both seemed ok with it, so I presented that during the time the tables reported back to the main group. The group as a whole seemed fairly receptive to the idea, since it adds more to downtown without taking anything away. If you haven't read my post on that plan, I suggest you do. Here's the link.
A video of the whole session will eventually appear here on the city's website, in addition to on the cable channel. I urge you to watch that to at least see the Restoration St. Louis section.