Old post office plans include hotels, skyscrapers for Chicago
Developer hopes to build 120-story tower, several other connected buildings
07/27/2011 10:00 PM
After two years of speculation about what would become of the old post office site overhanging the Congress Expressway, the British developer who owns the site has unveiled a massive and ambitious plan for the site.
It’s a three-phase plan in which renovation of the post office is perhaps only the smallest piece of the puzzle. The biggest piece, by far, is the massive 120-story skyscraper that would be tacked on to the front of the building. There’s also a pair of hotel towers and two residential towers in the complex.
All of it is intended be built in three phases over a period of 10 years, according to the plan. The cost? A whopping $3.5 billion.
It’s a much bigger plan than most people envisioned during the post office’s auction back in 2009. Back then, the problem most people had with the building seemed to be that it was too big.
But that’s the opposite of what Davies thought, according to Laurence Booth, the architect who drew up the plans for the ambitious project.
“Where other people thought it was too big, he didn’t think it was big enough,” Booth said. “He wanted it set in a setting of more retail and more offices. He wanted to create a national, if not international, destination.”
So Booth drew up the plans. They use the old post office’s limestone structure as a base, expanding it to create a ground-level complex that wraps around, connecting all the buildings in the project.
The project will be done in three phases. The first is a rehab of the post office, building a hotel tower, a retail and entertainment center, free parking and a riverwalk. The second phase is the 120-story skyscraper, which would be the tallest in North America at 2,000 feet and would include another hotel, offices and residential units. A separate hotel tower would also be built in this phase. The third phase would include two residential towers on the opposite site of the Chicago River.
When it’s all said and done, Booth said he thinks the plan will reinvigorate what’s now a rather run-down corner of the West Loop, having an impact beyond the complex itself.
“You’ll be able to bridge Congress [Parkway], you’ll be able to move people over and around it,” Booth said. “The idea here is to make a space that’s filled with life, parking and service.”
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he’s been working with Davies and his team for “quite a while,” and he’s on board with the plan so far.
“They’re appropriately ambitious,” he said. “The plans have to be bold and creative. I believe this is exactly what we need to transform this historic property for the future.”
The developers submitted their plans to the city on Thursday afternoon, and they should begin the vetting process at next week’s city council meeting. Fioretti said he’ll insist they go through one more step — meeting with the neighbors and neighborhood groups.
“They will not do anything until there’s approval from those who live around it,” he said.