DANVILLE — Nearly a week after the deadline to submit proposals came and went, one alderman is calling for a new timetable — and a potential new site — for Danville’s casino.
Steve Foster, who represents Ward 7, has placed on tonight’s Danville City Council agenda two resolutions — one that would change the developer-selection process and another that would allow for more time to turn in proposals.
“The city needs to have a discussion,” said Foster, one of Danville’s longest-serving aldermen.
Foster said he wants to give more time to a group that’s trying to assemble a proposal that would put a casino in downtown Danville, as well as any other developers who might be interested in that location rather than the preferred 42-acre site adjacent to the Lynch Road exit along Interstate 74.
That undeveloped, shovel-ready site is next to the state border with Indiana — the target population for casino customers, according to past marketing studies.
Other advantages of the I-74 site: It also wouldn’t require assembling parcels from various owners, and it’s located near several hotels.
Those were among the reasons it was presented as the preferred site soon after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a gambling-expansion bill in early July that includes a casino license for Danville.
Foster, however, argues that “it’s nonsense that it needs to be near the interstate and near the interstate exit.” He indicated that one group interested in a downtown location includes Craig and Kim Campbell, former Danville bankers who now do business in the Chicago area.
“The people who are trying to do it downtown have shown me a lot of things,” he added. “It would revitalize our whole downtown.”
Foster said he has no personal stake in the matter, but firmly believes a downtown site would be best for the city in the long run.
“I’ve got not one penny of interest. ... I’m not involved in this,” he said. “I don’t care who does it. I want it done downtown.”
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., Vermilion Advantage CEO Vicki Haugen and developer Dave Cocagne, who are spearheading the process, presented the Lynch Road site to the city council in July as the preferred location. They’ve said the steering committee would consider a development proposal at a different location only if it were shovel-ready, due to the tight timeline imposed by the state.
Foster said he believes those interested in developing a casino downtown submitted a proposal by the July 31 deadline but still have details they are working out.
“They just need more time to get it done,” he said. “They don’t have all their information together. It also gives all the other people a chance to consider the downtown.”
Local officials have said any new casino would require at least 20 to 25 acres of land. When asked specifically where a casino could fit downtown, Foster indicated it could go on the north or south side of the Vermilion River, just east of the Memorial Bridge, possibly incorporating the Old National Bank property, Towne Centre, the Bresee Tower and the David S. Palmer Arena.
Danville’s downtown is about 7 miles from the Indiana border, roughly a 10-minute drive, and there are two hotels in the downtown area.
The city must submit to the Illinois Gaming Board its development proposal — including an agreement with a developer, a plan that’s ready to execute and approval from the city council — by the end of October.
Foster said he wants all 14 aldermen to be more involved in the review and selection process rather than leaving the decision process up to the steering committee, which includes Williams, Haugen, Alderman Mike Puhr, Corporation Counselor Dave Wesner, Acting Police Chief Chris Yates, Vermilion Advantage business development Director Tinisha Shade-Spain, and two businessmen — Gardner Peck of Danville Metal Stamping and Jerry Connolly of Venture Mechanical.
“All 14 council members should have input and know what’s going on,” Foster said. “Why would we let such a momentous decision be made by such a small group of people?”