It was the deal that many said couldn’t be done: Wrestle Chicago’s massive and long-abandoned old post office building away from a British developer and turn it over to someone who would put it to good use. There were predictions it would be tied up in court for decades, or at least as long as the building has been out of service. But then late last night a glimmer of hope shone through the gap where the concrete behemoth straddles the Eisenhower Expressway — Word from Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the impossible had been done.
According to a press release from the city, the deal announced in March to sell the Old Post Office to The 601W Companies has been completed. Hizzonor says the new New York owner is clear to redevelop the property that has been derelict since before your interns were born.
What’s unclear is what became of the threat to sue the city for using eminent domain to seize the property. It’s possible that the previous owner, Bob Davies, was in on the deal and had his needs satisfied, but city hall is mum on the details.
What is clear is that the mayor’s office sees this as a way to move forward with returning the old building to productive use. Eventually. It’s going to take a little time. And an estimated half-billion dollars from 601W.
A rough rendering of the project shows that 601W has tapped Gensler to work its magic on the building, which will be primarily offices with some supporting retail.
The first priority is sealing the building envelope, which involves fixing the roof, upgrading the windows, and stabilizing the facade. Once that’s done, work can begin carving the property into office-sized offices. Fortunately, in this era many businesses value wide open workspaces, and this building has them in spades. And like many office buildings these days, look for rooftop gardens, cafes, and a gym.
There’s something for the public, too — an expansion of the city’s riverwalk project on both sides of the Ike, with a pedestrian underpass linking the two spaces.
601W has an ambitious timetable for the project. It wants to welcome the first tenants in 2018.