Old Post Office Development Back On Track With Hotel, Residential, Retail, Office Space and a 100-Story Skyscraper

Old Post Office renovation proposal Phase 1 rendering from west

Old Post Office renovation proposal Phase 1 rendering from west

Plans for a massive 5.2 million-square-foot renovation and restoration of the empty Post Office at Canal and Van Buren, and accompanying new West Loop development are once again moving forward.

Old Post Office renovation proposal Phase 1 rendering from east

Old Post Office renovation proposal Phase 1 rendering from east

If approved by the City of Chicago, the project would turn the 2.7-million-square-foot hulk of a building into a bustling hub of activity.

The latest version of the plan was made public tonight (April 9, 2013) by Architect Joe Antunovich of Antunovich and Associates. The cost of the mixed-use development could run as high as $1.5 billion for the first phase alone.

The developer behind the enormous project is the British company International Property Developers. It submitted plans for the enormous project to the city in December of 2012, and is hoping to get final approval from the city in the next couple of months. Tonight, IPD billed the project as “the rebirth of a landmark.”

Joe Antunovich of Antunovich and Associates

Joe Antunovich of Antunovich and Associates

In fact, the property is not an actual landmark now, but Antunovich said the developer would file for landmark status if the city gives the project the green light. The State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District have already reviewed the project, and both support the design. No public subsidies are being sought by the developer.

“It’s a marvelous old building just waiting for someone to come and fix her up,” Antunovich said.

The fix-up is planned for two phases. The first will concentrate on the old Post Office building, and the Holiday Inn at 506 West Harrison Street. The latter building would be demolished to make way for a parking structure with direct access to the CTA’s Clinton Blue Line platform.

From the parking structure (to the west of the Post Office building) walkways over six levels would connect directly to the old building. The Post Office would be completely renovated, including the grand lobby. When finished it will offer access to 800,000 square feet of retail space.

The retail space will continue on the east of the building and run directly along the river, meeting the city’s holdback frontage requirements. Above the retail space in the old building will be four levels of parking, with residential units on the top floors. The building will be LEED-certified and include green space on the roof.

“We’ll have access from the retail space extending out to the river and a winter garden at either end of the main building at the Harrison and Van Buren sides,” Antunovich said.

Rising from the east side of the Post Office building will be a 1,000-foot-high, 100-story tower.

By the numbers, in addition to the retail space, there will be a total of 2,900 residential units, 525,000 square feet of office space, 5,700 parking spaces and 320 rooms available for a high-end hotel.

Old Post Office renovation proposal phase 1 tower in the center and phase 2 towers at left and right.

Old Post Office renovation proposal phase 1 tower in the center and phase 2 towers at left and right.

The total time for completion of the project is estimated at five to seven years, but the first residents could conceivably move in within 18 months from now, if all goes well, Antunovich said. The first step is asbestos abatement prior at the old Post Office prior to the beginning of renovation.

When questioned about financing for the project, an IDP representative expressed confidence that financing won’t be a problem, and that the project’s prime location is helping attract investors.

Phase two, planned for a future date, would include two additional towers, with one rising up to the maximum height allowed by federal regulations — 2,000-feet. That would make the nearby Willis Tower the second-tallest skyscraper in town. The second phase would add 3,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 920 hotel rooms.

The development would restore a grand old building, Antunovich said.

“What we’ve painted here is a canvas, a canvas of what it could be.”

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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  1. Maybe I am not understanding the phasing, but isn’t there some concern here that if this project is approved, the Old Post Office will be restored and a parking garage will be built next to the Blue Line and none of the towers (three proposed) will be built. If so, while using the Old Post Office sounds good, I am not sure a parking garage next to the Blue Line is a good use of space for the city. As this moves forward, it would be good to get a sense of what is in place to make sure some of this project is actually completed.

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  2. My concern is that the parking structure and tower will pretty much block the view of the post office building looking west along Congress. Esthetically the post office is no great shakes, but it is something of a landmark, and half-concealing it behind structures in a completely incompatible style seems a bit insensitive.

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  3. Bill Motchan

    Granted, when you walk around the Old Post Office now, it’s not much to look at. That’s what happens to a 90-year-old building after years of neglect. It could definitely be stately-looking again. This is the ultimate fixer-upper, and the developer appears intent on making the place shine. During the presentation, Joe Antunovich indicated that the design of the parking structure would enhance the development. The long-term plan (phase 2) calls for another tower rising atop the parking structure. Most of the ancillary buildings and construction around the Post Office will be transparent, in part to avoid blocking sight lines to the old building.

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  4. It would be great if they somehow used their access to the train tracks for a train station….I guess that didn’t make the cut.

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  5. Joe Antunovich also addressed the issue of Amtrak access. The renovation design attempted to add access to Amtrak, but it was deemed unfeasible. The Old Post Office sits directly atop the tracks, and the design DOES include additional space for the soon-to-be-constructed high-speed rail tracks when the new trains begin running between Union Station and St. Louis.

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  6. Big time missed opportunity to use the post office’s architectural language. It could have easily handled the project’s scale. Instead its more like everything else, than anything else, yawn.

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