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Old February 12th, 2005, 10:26 PM   #1
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Old Post Office Development | 2000 ft | 120 fl | Pro

Height: 2000 ft
Floor count: 120
Location: West Congress and South Canal
Neighborhood: Loop
Construction end:
Architect: Booth Hansen
Developer: International Property Developers


The owner of the Chicago's behemoth old post office building on Thursday unveiled a grandiose plan for redeveloping the long-vacant property and the area around it, including a 2,000-foot skyscraper that would dethrone the Willis Tower as the city's tallest building.

The owner, British developer Bill Davies, promises to transform the area into an "urban mecca" of five residential, office and hotel towers. Yet the three-phase project, which Davis wants to complete in 10 years, faces major economic hurdles, real estate experts said.

Completed in 1932, the post office building was once the world's largest post office. The building, which straddles the Congress Street feeder ramp leading to the Eisenhower Expressway, has been vacant since 1995. It has been the subject of several redevelopment plans, none of which have succeeded.

Davies bought the historic post office building in 2009 for $24.8 million, and is apparently convinced it has a future as something other than a white elephant.

"His concept is that it is not big enough," said Laurence Booth of the Chicago firm Booth Hansen, the designer of the project.

The first phase of the $3.5 billion project calls for converting the inside of the Old Post Office into retail shops and hotel rooms. The west side of the building will house a garage with ramps that would feed directly into Congress Parkway. The Beaux Arts-inspired marble and gold lobby will be restored to its original glory and would serve as the entrance to the shops and a 40-story hotel that would boast views of the Chicago River.

Davies plans to expand the project into three other sites: An empty lot south of West Harrison Street tucked between the Chicago River and South Wells Street; a lot south of Congress Parkway now home to a Holiday Inn and a parking lot; and the site adjacent to the Old Post Office known as the "Sugar House."

He has rights to buy the those properties but has not closed on the deals.

The plan, which was filed with the city on Thursday, is expected to be introduced to the City Council next week. It would then be reviewed by the housing and economic development staff. Typically, such a process can take months.

Once the plan is approved, the company can move with the $450 million first phase within 90 days, said Martin Mulryan, International Property Developers project manager.

Each phase would take three years each to be completed. The second phase, at a cost of about $2 billion, calls for a hotel in the current site of the Holiday Inn and adjacent parking lot, and a 120-story skyscraper at the site of the Sugar House to be used for office, hotel and residential space. The buildings will be raised over a 10 floor platform that would house more retail space.

The final phase calls for the development of the now empty site at the river. It will house 10 floors of retail space and a parking lot. Two 60-story residential towers will be built on top.

All sites will be connected with pedestrian bridges. To connect the site across the river, Davies plans to built a multi-story bridge with space for more retail shops and restaurants.

Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development said the developers had met with city staff periodically over the last two years, but declined to comment on the plan or its political prospects.

Booth, the designer of the project, is a well-respected member of Chicago's often-contentious community of architects. But he has never completed anything of this scale.

Booth's finest projects, such as his award-winning renovation of Old St. Patrick's Church at 140 S. Desplaines St., have been considerably smaller. He has designed skyscrapers, however. His largest completed one to date is the 31-story Joffrey Tower at 151 N. State St., which combines retail space, condominiums and the Joffrey Ballet's offices and studios.

Booth also is no stranger to controversial skyscraper plans -- and to the difficulty in getting them built.

In 2007, along with developers James Klutznick and Tim Anderson, he unveiled his design for a 49-story, glass-sheathed condominium tower in north suburban Evanston. At 523 feet, it would have been the tallest building in Chicago's suburbs.

But many Evanston residents argued that the tower would be an over-scaled monstrosity and would uproot local merchants. In response, the plans were dramatically downscaled and in 2009, Evanston approved a downtown height limit of 35 stories.

The project has yet to break ground.

Davies, who has appeared on the Times of London's list of England's richest people, bought a dilapidated post office in 1986 in Liverpool, England and sold it 16 years later in the same condition, angering local politicians.

Last edited by i_am_hydrogen; September 6th, 2011 at 07:46 PM.
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Old February 12th, 2005, 11:23 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ThirdCoast312

Gonzalez Hasbrouck Inc.

Knock half of it down.

"The original building is a violation of the Burnham plan," says Joseph Gonzalez, principal. "It blocks the view corridor along Congress Parkway with this heavy-handed limestone building."

Removing the central core of the building restores the view corridor and makes DEVELOPMENT of the remaining structure more manageable, he says. The building could be developed into a combination of OFFICE and loft residential space.
I hate this proposal. Hmm well also, from what I can recall, it went against the Burnham plan to build all of those modern skyscrapers instead of everything Beaux Art mid-scale. Thus, we should tear down Sears Tower. Faulty reasoning.

I think one of the best aspects of the Old Post Office is its sheer bulk, and through this, its demonstration that there was a time in this country when developers and clients cared enough about craftsmanship that even unbelievably huge buildings on the scale of the Old Post Office could be done in an elegant, visually appealing way. Even the most utilitarian structures--warehousing and distribution for mail--were done with style. (Contra the NEW post office--and I"m not talking about the entrance / office building on Harrison which is nice, I'm talking about the riverside part, which is not going to sit well with the people who who live in the residential development that eventually gets built across the river.)

I don't see the disadvantage of the bulk of the building "blocking views." Blocking views of the expressway? Who cares.. And in the few times that I have driven in from the western suburbs, the approach to the post office was exhiliarating... Then, the fact that you go through this short tunnel as the expressway ends, and emerge on the other side downtown "triumpant." It adds to the experience.

The other negative about this submission is the design itself. People complain about the new Soldier Field merging old and new, but man this is much, much worse. Its like ripping out the center of the beloved Merchandise Mart and replacing it with curtain wall glass.. blasphemy! And that bridge across is utterly unspiring, and it looks stupid.

The main problem with this building, of course, is that it is so unbelievably huge, and so the demand for it is going to have to be of some incredible magnitidue for private development to work. Cutting the building into small pieces obviously solves that problem, but let's face it, that's a cop out--the easy way out. In that way, it violates the spirit, if not the law, of Burnham--"Make no small plans--they have no power to stir men's blood." (I'm sure that's a paraphrase but that's the best I can do.)

I like the designs that maintain the building as it is, enhancing its detailing, etc. Putting a casino in there seems like a great idea in some ways.. you could have a hotel above it, and build some new ramps and a parking garage within the building that would be accessible from Congress, and hence the expressways. You might also have to have a free trolley or bus that would go from North Michigan ave, etc. down to the casino, if was located here.

However, I still think the better location for the casino is along State Street at Block 37. They talk about retail at that site, but I find that problematic for several reasons (1) retail vacancies in the Loop are rather high as it is, and (2) frankly, we have enough retail downtown as a whole--all the major stores and then some, both discount, mid-priced, and upscale.. what else do we need? A casino on State street would provide a good way to further strengthen State Street, working towards the goal of making it as vital an urban destination as Boul Mich.

The other reason to build it there is that if the city can manage to pull off the plan for baggage check-in and high-speed rail to O'Hare, it could simultaneously turn a weakness of O'Hare into a strength.

Just think.. all of the thousands of travelers who get stuck at O'Hare in the winter for hours of delays and layovers, some of which are overnight. Few of them probably actually venture into the city, since they have little time, and its unbelievably cold, and they're from Phoenix or Atlanta or something so they can't deal with that. But hey--take a 25-minute shuttle, play a few games of blackjack and Texas Hold-em, and zip back to the airport for the next flight out. That's a layover well worth it.
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Old February 12th, 2005, 11:34 PM   #3
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Obviously I'm assuming that if you put the casino and the high speed rail on the Block 37 site, there would be an easy (and secure) way to travel between them without going outside. That would make it almost effortless for out-of-towners stuck overnight or for the day at the airport to burn off some steam and see the Chicago skyline on the train ride down there. There's plenty of room for both, plus condos and even a little bit of office space at block 37 since its such a big site. (Condos there should be immensely popular. If I was one of these consultants who has to travel back and forth from home every weekend, and I could basically live anywhere in the country, and I found there was a place to live that's in a nice urban setting yet also 25 minutes train ride from the airport without walking outside or negotiating traffic, that would be a huge pull. You would think they could market that kind of property to travelling businesspeople around the country. Same with office tenants. )

Plus, if the casino actually gets built elsewhere, I assume its going to be some boxy thing just barely "designed" by some ho-hum architecture firm that does big projects. If you have it at Block 37... Ralph Johnson, Lord Ralph, is your man.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 12:21 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ThirdCoast312


Hasbrouck Peterson Zimoch Sirirattumrong

A large atrium — extending from the building's west to east side — would remove less than a third of the building while making the structure more inviting.

Solid glass atrium walls would give a feeling of translucency while allowing eastbound motorists to look through the building and into the city. Retailers could open out on the atrium. Upper floors of the main section and the towers would be residential. An enclosed veranda on the building's west side would be protected from the elements, air pollution and vehicular noise, but an atrium on the east side could be exposed and dedicated for use by building residents.

"The biggest impediment to it right now is it's rather forbidding," says James Peterson, a principal in the firm. "I don't think an adaptive reuse of the building just as it was would really work. It needed something stronger."


Legat Architects

The perfect tenant for this firm's design idea is a casino.

"I was looking for one function that would give it a punch and, in doing so, not only support the other functions, but the city," says Vojo Narancic, head of design. "It would invigorate a whole part of the city that is sleepy."

A casino, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues would fill the lower portion of the central section, with a hotel and residences above that and in the towers. A large atrium would span the building's width in its center, and be augmented by red and yellow walls that would extend from ground level and through the roof. Pedestrian bridges on each floor would cross between the two sections. Colored laser lights could project the colors into the sky at night.

While keeping the building intact, Mr. Narancic suggests attaching floating glass panels to the building's east façade to give it a veiled yet more contemporary appearance. Glass membranes also would be attached to the top of the towers and extend upward to protect roof gardens.



The firm chose to preserve the existing façade, but convert the interior into five multitenant OFFICE buildings organized around four atriums.

"It really is a kind of building that on the exterior wants to be left alone," says Andrew Tobisch, vice-president of architecture at the firm. "There isn't any aspect of the building, down to the guard shack, that is not beautifully done, so we approached the building with great respect."

The bulk of the building would be dedicated to multitenant OFFICE space. McClier believes the building's location and large floor plates make residential or hotel DEVELOPMENT feasible. A commercial concourse spanning the length of the building's bottom floor would make the DEVELOPMENT a city within a city. A lack of green space in the neighborhood could be remedied by a landscaped roof, which could serve as a public plaza, complete with spectacular views of the city.
Personally, these would be my top three. I like the first of these the best in terms of doing actual changes to the building. I think it would be ridiculous to tear down the middle section as the very first proposal suggested. I agree with ChicagoLover that the sheer bulk of the building is its best aspects, that is why I also favor the third proposal in my list which suggests leaving the outside facade alone.
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Old April 11th, 2005, 04:23 AM   #5
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Chicago needs more color in its skyline I think. I would leave the building alone. Its the freeway I would talk about removing and putting some more blue line tracks down for extra long express trains. Think of different colors of neon lights all over the building. Like around each window or something, some thing really colorful.
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Old April 11th, 2005, 08:21 AM   #6
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I like the second idea foremost, followed by the first. I do agree that the structure is a bit squattish, although I like how the second idea deals with that.

A casino? In this building? Something in me died when I read that idea.
Mmm... forbidden donut...
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Old April 11th, 2005, 02:14 PM   #7
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My idea is to demolish that building, and put a nicer more colorful skyscrpaper there, or something else nice like you just exited the rest of Chicago, and welcome to downtown feeling.

Make people go "wow, chicago knows how to make an entrance". Put a gate there...
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Old April 11th, 2005, 06:13 PM   #8
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im opposed to any changes to the structure... its grand, historic, and huge, and i love it like that. its like saying the merch mart is too big, lets cut a giant hole in it to make it look modern and cool. yeah, why dont we go back to a 1970's mindset while we are at it and modernise all those hideous limestone and terra cotta buildings with cor-ten steel and tile?

Turn it into condos with retail on the interior. if you cant do it all at once, do it in phases... no need to gut and tear down half the structure...

"The original building is a violation of the Burnham plan," says Joseph Gonzalez, principal. "It blocks the view corridor along Congress Parkway with this heavy-handed limestone building."
and the Chicago Stock Exchange Building that is only a few blocks away dosent do that? Its an expressway, who cares about view corridors. It provides an effective way to tell drivers 'Slow Down! You're in the City Now!'
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Old April 13th, 2005, 01:44 AM   #9
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Hines' Role
Project Consultant

Downtown Chicago bounded by Van Buren Street, Canal Street, Harrison Street and the south branch of the Chicago River

Net Rentable Area
2,000,000 square feet
(185,800 square meters)

Typical Floor Size
33,500 to 186,000 square feet
(3,112 to 17,279 square meters)

Hines has been engaged by the United States Postal Service to oversee the decommissioning of the building systems and to maintain the vacant facility. Concurrent with initial property management activities, Hines assembled a team of marketing consultants, architects and engineers in an effort to determine the redevelopment potential of the building and recommend to the Postal Service the building's highest and best use. The studies included an analysis of the building's potential adaptive re-use for office, entertainment retail, value retail, residential, hotel and parking functions. Hines also analyzed traffic studies, structural systems, environmental and landmark issues, and building operating systems. The United States Postal Service utilized the studies to package the project for disposition.
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Old December 28th, 2006, 08:15 AM   #10
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Sorry to revive an old thread, but it's going on two years now.

Is there any news?
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Old December 28th, 2006, 03:06 PM   #11
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Good call, i have been thinking more about the old post office lately. These are the latest results I got, its nothing recent to say the least...


July 01, 2005
By Alby Gallun

$300M revival plan for Post Office
A firm led by real estate mogul Neil G. Bluhm is in advanced talks with city officials over an estimated $300-million plan to turn the Old Main Post Office that straddles Congress Parkway downtown into offices, condos and a hotel.........

I really wish it could be considered for a massive intermodal transit center. Heck, with it being right by the Clinton Blue Line, instant Eisenhower access (could move the Greyound station too), on top of Metra/Amtrak south lines, etc. it would almost seem to be ready made. I am not sure how many tracks run under the PO though or if the number of tracks could somehow be expanded. But I did read an article once that said the city had looked into if it could serve as a high speed rail station for the future.
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Old December 28th, 2006, 05:51 PM   #12
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yeah this is a nice building as is,
just fix it up, rehab it,
into apts.

hopefully they dont disfigure it.
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Old December 28th, 2006, 09:30 PM   #13
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^Maybe residential/hotel/office for part of it, but there are a lot of creative ideas that could work. Reminds me a bit of all the power station redevelopment projects in London:

Oxo Tower - nice restaurant on top too

Bankside Power Station - Tate Modern

And now Battersea Power Station

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Old December 28th, 2006, 11:59 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by mohammed wong View Post
just fix it up, rehab it, into apts.
Too little windowline for the floorplates. And the SHPO told them they couldn't hang balconies on it.
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Old December 29th, 2006, 02:36 AM   #15
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The Tate Modern is definitely one of my favourite "old is new again" buildings. I just love it. And those slides they have there at the moment are great fun. lol

Seriously though, I hope they do something cool with the old post office. The "new" one is so freakin' hideous and mismanaged though.
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Old December 31st, 2006, 06:21 AM   #16
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Last edited by Loopy; June 20th, 2010 at 04:51 AM.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 10:47 PM   #17
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At Deadline

A step forward for old Post Office redo

The long-awaited revamp of the old Main Post Office downtown has moved a step closer to reality. A proposal to convert the 2.5-million-square-foot building into 300 residential units, 240 hotel rooms and 455,000 square feet of office space is scheduled for consideration at the April 19 Chicago Plan Commission meeting. Chicago real estate investor Walton Street Capital has been working for more than eight years on the plan. "There are so many government entities that have an interest," says Walton exec Raphael Dawson. "Everyone from the (Army) Corps of Engineers to IDOT has something to say about this." [Alby Gallun]
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Old April 11th, 2007, 01:17 AM   #18
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April 19 Plan Commission Agenda

A proposed Waterway Business Residential Planned Development Application submitted
by Chicago P.O. Associates, LLC for the property generally located at 401-439 West Van
Buren Street. The application allows for the construction of 300 residential units, 240 hotel
keys, approximately 455,000 square feet of office space and 400 parking spaces. This
building is identified as potentially significant in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.
(2nd Ward)
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Old April 11th, 2007, 04:59 AM   #19
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Okay, so, now that some of the beans have been spilled - I'll try to do my best to fill in some information (as much as I can without getting fired).

I've been working on this project for a couple of weeks and here's what we know so far: the current scheme involves hotel, office, residential and retail components. The old loading areas and some of the mail handling areas on the lower floors will be used for parking; half of the building that spans Congress (between the four corner towers) is going to be removed with the hotel component filling the remainder. That's about all I can comfortably say for now - I'll keep updating as it seems appropriate to do so.
Straight from Michigan and Monroe in downtown Chicago!
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Old April 11th, 2007, 05:18 AM   #20
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Does it still look like this?:

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