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OrdoSeclorum Jul 21, 2011 9:07 PM

CHICAGO | Post Office Redevelopment
Height: 2000 ft / 170 floors | 1000 ft x 2
Floor count: 170, 92, ??
Location: West Congress and South Canal
Construction end:
Architect: Antunovich Associates
Developer: International Property Developers

Phases One (center), Two (right), and Three (left):

Phase One (1000 feet, 92 floors):

Work to redevelop old Chicago Post Office could start in September
By David Roeder July 18, 2013 2:46PM


City planners on Thursday approved a redevelopment for the old Chicago Main Post Office as agents for the British investor behind the project said work could begin in September.

The federally landmarked building that spans Congress Parkway would become the centerpiece of a long-term reimagining of a new neighborhood near the Loop. The first phase alone might take eight to 10 years to complete, said Joseph Antunovich, the architect for the project.

In a later phase, a tower that could vie for the “world’s tallest” title could arise next to the post office. But that is acknowledged to be perhaps 20 years away, and aides to the developer, Bill Davies, emphasized their plans to pursue the massive project in chunks that will appeal to financiers and eventual users of the space.

A casino is not in the plans, although the site has been mentioned whenever a potential Chicago license comes up. Charles Hubbard, representing Davies’ International Property Developers North America Inc., said a casino is not essential to the project.

“If there’s a legal ability to have a casino, there’s a possibility of having the space there,” he said. But he added that in the meantime, no casino has been included in appraisals of the property.

Hubbard said financiers are interested in the project and that retailers will move into the vast old building, “as long as they can see the overall master plan, and what an exciting plan it is.”

Initial work would begin turning the old post office, at 2.7 million square feet, into residential use, with up to 2,150 units planned. Lower floors would get retail space close to the size of Water Tower Place and parking.

The first phase, estimated to cost $1.5 billion, also foresees a 1,000-foot-tall tower on the old building’s northeast side. The tower would hold residences and perhaps a hotel.

The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously endorsed the proposal. Its recommendation goes to the City Council for final action.

“What makes this project feasible is that it is phaseable as we go along,” Antunovich said.Hubbard said first-phase work on the old building, which has been vacant since 1996, could start in September and that units could be ready for occupancy 18 months later.

The post office, 433 W. Van Buren, opened in 1921 and by the time a major expansion was completed in 1932, it was the largest building in the world, suited for spreading mail to the expanding western United States. It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the Daniel Burnham successor firm that also created Union Station, the Wrigley Building and the Merchandise Mart.

A grand, soaring lobby is among the post office’s distinguishing features. The Davies-Antunovich plan calls for converting the building’s old office space on its Van Buren and Harrison street sides into residences while attracting stores and other commercial operations, such as theaters, into the vast interior space where the mail used to be processed and sorted. The postal service moved to a new facility just south of the building.

Hubbard said the design of the old post office fits with the developer’s need to phase the project. The new plan replaces one Davies floated two years ago that was even more grandiose, imagining six high-rises around the old building. It was quickly dismissed as unworkable.

The downsized version provides three adjoining towers in total and about 10 million square feet, or more than what’s in two Willis Towers. Hubbard guessed the cost at $4 billion.

But he said getting the city’s zoning approval and having a workable plan is the key to making a start. Global financiers, he said, “have told us, ‘When you get your zoning entitlement, come back to us, we’re very interested.”

Asked if Davies, who is elderly, intends to sell his interest in the property, Hubbard said, “It’s got to involve other investors and some of those investors may be co-developers.”

Antunovich, an architect of condo high-rises who also has expertise in community planning and renovations of historic buildings, noted that the site is a natural for intense urban use. Congress Parkway runs right through the building as its feeds into the Eisenhower Expressway, the Blue Line and commuter rail tracks run beneath it and the property has river frontage.

Residents could “live, shop, exercise, perhaps go to the movies in the building. You don’t really have to leave but you could get on a train and go to work at any one of the sprawling suburbs here in Chicago and yet live here downtown. I think the possibilities are truly endless,” Antunovich said.

The first phase calls for construction of about 4.5 million square feet, including the residential and hotel tower and a six-level deck on the building’s eastern side. The deck would allow for passage over Congress Parkway and would form a base of parking floors for an envisioned second-phase tower that could hit enter the ranking of world’s tallest buildings. In a final phase, a tower could be built west of the post office.

10023 Jul 21, 2011 9:07 PM

Here we go again?

Skyscrapers, retail part of massive Old Post Office plan

By: Alby Gallun July 21, 2011

(Crain's) — The owner of the Old Main Post Office has unveiled an audacious plan to transform the hulking structure and surrounding properties into a massive complex spanning the Chicago River that would include a shopping center, hotels, more than 1,000 residential units and the tallest skyscraper in North America.

The 120-story tower is the centerpiece of a $3.5-billion, 16-million-square-foot development proposed by Bill Davies, the Englishman who paid $24 million two years ago for the post office, an empty landmark structure that straddles the Congress Parkway on the west side of the river.

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Though it would be best for Chicago if someone would just build the Spire and finish 111 W Wacker.

Steely Dan Jul 21, 2011 9:15 PM

^ interesting concept, but that rendering is missing an image of flying pigs.

Buckman821 Jul 21, 2011 9:19 PM

I love how they have one parcel saved for future development. "We don't want to get too ambitious. We'll save this bit for later."

Haha. O well, I wish them the best of luck.

emathias Jul 21, 2011 9:22 PM

It'd be a great boost for motivating the City on building the Clinton Street Subway.

P.S. What would it look like in the skyline?

spyguy Jul 21, 2011 9:39 PM

What a joke...10 floors of retail alone is ridiculous. Oh, and I'm sure work will really start 90 days after approval. :rolleyes:

ndrwmls10 Jul 21, 2011 9:44 PM

The developer did state that development will be staggered. Even this never comes to fruition, it's still nice to see something like this proposed.

the urban politician Jul 21, 2011 9:47 PM

Hell this vision is too ambitious for 2005, let alone now

the urban politician Jul 21, 2011 9:53 PM

The question is whether Lawrence Booth is chuckling under his breath as he makes these comments. Clearly he knows that this thing is a pipe dream, but is simply giddy to be getting paid for his designs as well as the free advertisement from Crains

i_am_hydrogen Jul 21, 2011 9:55 PM


Originally Posted by Steely Dan (Post 5354327)
^ interesting concept, but that rendering is missing an image of flying pigs.

And also pie in the sky.

Via Chicago Jul 21, 2011 9:58 PM


Originally Posted by ndrwmls10 (Post 5354360)
Even this never comes to fruition, it's still nice to see something like this proposed.

He farted out the single most unrealistic plan he could think of; whats so special about that? Anyone can do that. Ill pay about as much attention to this as I do to the nightly lottery numbers.

intrepidDesign Jul 21, 2011 10:08 PM

12,000 parking spaces? That's almost offensive.

emathias Jul 21, 2011 10:22 PM


Originally Posted by intrepidDesign (Post 5354401)
12,000 parking spaces? That's almost offensive.

It is a bit excessive, but on the other hand it's over an expressway and basically next to the confluence of three major expressways.

Plus, in comparison, the Mall of America has 2.5 million square feet of retail space and over 20,000 parking spaces. This proposal has over 6 million square feet of retail and entertainment space and another 2 million square feet of office space.

What concerns me most is that the article says the parking is free to shoppers. I don't think the city should allow that much free parking to be dumped on the market. A tax of either $2 or $4 per car would seem appropriate. If the retailers wanted to cover that with validations, that would be their choice, but the money could be used to improve either roads or transit near the area and would at least go part of the way toward keeping driving and transit competitive.

Rizzo Jul 21, 2011 10:30 PM

LOL, old main is what, almost 3 million square feet? That looks so puny with it up against all those towers.

J_M_Tungsten Jul 21, 2011 10:40 PM

^^^ Seriously. Why don't they actually attempt to fill the old post office with stuff first, then see if they need more room!

ardecila Jul 21, 2011 11:51 PM


Originally Posted by J_M_Tungsten (Post 5354443)
^^^ Seriously. Why don't they actually attempt to fill the old post office with stuff first, then see if they need more room!

That is Davies' plan, actually. It's pretty absurd.

My guess is that the ONE rendering we've seen is an urban-design piece, and a very preliminary one. If you remember the watercolor renderings that SOM produced for Lakeshore East, 12 years ago? None of the buildings built today look like those in the rendering. You can pretty easily read Booth Hansen's intentions... they wanted to enclose the interchange/park as an enclosed urban space, like a massive version of Daley Plaza that you can't actually hang out in. All the buildings are designed in service of that idea, and it's still pretty clumsy.

Best case scenario is that the renovation of the Post Office itself goes ahead as planned, with a handful of big-box retailers on the first/second floors and upper floors converted to parking. The article didn't identify a flag for the hotel, so I'm guessing there isn't one, which means it won't be getting built any time soon.

emathias Jul 21, 2011 11:56 PM


Originally Posted by J_M_Tungsten (Post 5354443)
^^^ Seriously. Why don't they actually attempt to fill the old post office with stuff first, then see if they need more room!

I'm guessing his general idea is that just prettying up the post office in that part of Chicago wouldn't create enough interest to draw enough people to justify even that. And the lack of other bidders and big ideas from other parties does kind of make that seem probable.

So, conjecture here, he thinks if he creates a huge splash and excitement and enough of a critical mass to attract more than just people who live downtown, he can make a go of it.

Certainly, it falls into the "make no small plans" category, as well in the history of showmanship and boosterism that Chicago has. It seems hard to make work, but I have to admit I'd rather see people try and fail at things like this than build another set of beige skyscrapers with no visual interest and limited ability to draw attention from anyone other than retirees from Gurnee.

Alliance Jul 22, 2011 12:08 AM

Wow. All the grace of Presidential towers...with the urban planning of of a exuburban mall and the architectural originality of white bread. If only Mr. Davies could conceptualize something worth building, let alone something feasible.

k1052 Jul 22, 2011 1:07 AM


Originally Posted by BWChicago (Post 5354485)

Pure fantasy.

Nobody is ever going to financially back a development of that size in that area.

wrab Jul 22, 2011 2:08 AM

Booth Hansen!

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