Gambling and laundry don't mix: A Wash & Win is a losing proposition
The Decatur City Council will be considering whether to approve an amendment to the Grand Avenue TIF Redevelopment Agreement with Niemann Holdings, LLC. The proposed agreement would allow for the building of a “Wash & Win”, an establishment where one can do laundry, gamble, and drink alcohol at a bar/cocktail lounge. The site of the proposed redevelopment, which is located at the SE corner of the intersection of Rt. 48 and Grand Ave., is within the city’s urban core, an area the city is focusing its neighborhood revitalization efforts on.
According to the representative for the developer: “Population declines in the city and area require reaction from retailers”, and further states “Under difficult population circumstances, we have been willing to stay engaged and respond to changing needs in the neighborhood with additional investment.”
Video gambling is not a need and putting in money to build a bar/cocktail lounge with slot machines is not an investment for citizens that live in distressed neighborhoods. The effects of video gambling are well known and include crime, bankruptcy, and addiction. Furthermore, Decatur can already be considered the gambling capital of Illinois. Between Dec. 2020 – Nov. 2021, $170.2 million was gambled and citizens lost $43.9 million at 498 machines, a per capita gambling loss of $622 per resident.
Sadly, in approximately 10 years, this development has transformed from a County Market grocery store to a Save-a-Lot with a County Market deli to a proposed complex where one can drink alcohol, play slot machines, and do laundry. A fast food restaurant might also become part of the development. Thus, in one decade, the west end of Decatur has gone from two full-service grocery stores to a near food desert with redevelopment opportunities now focused on alcohol consumption, wagering money, and eating fast food.
The proposed redevelopment agreement highlights many of the challenges the city faces: declining population (69,646 in 2021), high poverty (19.4% in 2021), low median household income ($45,404 in 2021), and poor health metrics. As a representative of the proposed development stated “… in order to keep the entire campus viable, we had to come up with a plan to profitably fill the space.”
We need our city’s companies, businesses, and citizens focused on reversing Decatur’s negative trends, not perpetuating them. I oppose this proposed project, and the justification used to support it should serve as a reminder to the city council and citizens of the urgency of our neighborhood revitalization initiatives and the magnitude of the challenges the city continues to face. Hopefully, the next time there is a redevelopment agreement, it will be to bring back a full-service grocery store and other retailers to the west end and other areas of the city that will improve the quality of life for our residents.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
The next city council meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 6. Meetings take place at 5:30 PM in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.