The din of backhoes, cranes and drills blends together along a stretch of Des Plaines River Road near Devon Avenue where two of Des Plaines' most-anticipated construction projects are underway.
Work on the city's $450 million casino is on track to be finished by summer 2011. Simultaneously, the state's $14 million River Road rebuilding project is chugging along.
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Despite a three-week laborers' strike in late June/July halting construction projects regionwide, both Des Plaines projects are still on target to be finished within 10 months.
"By Dec. 1, we will have covered the three weeks lost to be on time," Eric Bullion, project executive for general contractor Pepper Construction, said during a tour of the casino site Thursday. "It's a very fast-paced schedule."
Two weeks ago, crews demolished the last of 11 existing buildings on the 20-acre casino site fronting the Tri-State Tollway along the northwest corner of River Road and Devon Avenue.
The site has since been excavated and graded, foundations are in place, underground work is complete and the steel skeleton of the casino building is up, Bullion said.
The roughly 44,000-square-foot, single-level building now rearing its head above the tollway is 35 percent complete and will be enclosed by Dec. 1, Bullion added.
The first phase of construction also involves an attached five-story parking garage accommodating more than 1,500 cars, about 30,000 square feet of restaurant/bar space housing a pizza parlor, deli, buffet area, coffee shop, steakhouse and sports bar, and an additional 773 surface parking spaces. There will be a stage in the sports bar lounge for live musical acts.
The project's footprint covers 150,000 square feet of the site, and future phases of construction are planned to accommodate more parking and possibly future gambling expansion.
The casino roof is now substantially complete and skylights are installed. Though it will not be a "green" roof, casino developers are pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification, which sets standards for measuring environmental sustainability.
"We are attempting the highest level (gold certification) that we can get right now," said Jaimie Bulla with casino project manager Development Management Associates.
The Des Plaines city council required the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification as one of four standards of development under a new casino zoning district.
Among the requirements for the certification is ensuring most construction materials used for the project are recycled.
"A substantial portion upward of 70 percent of all debris from this project will be recycled," Bullion said. "There is a pre-requirement for energy efficiency and our project meets those requirements."
The casino floor housing 1,200 gambling positions sits on a structure with roughly 6 inches to 12 inches of water underneath to meet the requirement of the state license as Illinois does not allow land-based casinos.
As part of the River Road reconstruction project, a traffic light will be installed at the main entrance to the casino.
Reconstruction of the 1.5-mile stretch of River Road from north of Touhy Avenue to south of Devon Avenue involves widening, raising and reconstructing the road bed to protect it against flooding from the Des Plaines River. That project is expected to be completed in July 2011.