If you’re an eagle-eyed driver, you may have been able to spot some of the subtle signs of construction work going on at Chicago’s Old Main Post Office which spans the Eisenhower Expressway on your way out of town.
For those of you who prefer to keep your eyes on the road, or have other commuting routes, you’ll be happy to know that there actually is work going on at the concrete leviathan beached on the west bank of the Chicago River. And not the usual “We let a movie company blow part of it up” kind of construction. Or the “Crap, another hobo started a fire in there” kind of construction. Or the “Hey, Frank, does this look like it’s about to cave in?” kind of construction that we’re used to.
No, what we’re seeing these days is spelled out in a recent construction permit signed, sealed, stamped, spindled, and delivered by the City of Chicago:
MAIN LOBBY RESTORATION AT 1ST FLOOR & NEW MEPFP INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES AT TRACK LEVEL, 1ST, 3RD, 9TH, 12TH FLOORS & ROOF. TO INCLUDE NEW MECHANICAL RISERS THROUGH OUT THE BUILDING AS PER PLANS.
For those of you who don’t dig the BLDG DEPT’s SIG INT, “MEPFP” means “mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire prevention.” There, now you know as much as we do about construction.
When it comes to this building, it’s the first three words in the permit that are the most mellifluous: “Main lobby restoration.” Because if ever there was a main lobby in Chicago that deserved restoration, this one at 404 West Harrison is the one. Those who saw it at its height describe a space that is both art deco and institutional. It’s expected to become a showpiece of 601W’s half-billion dollar renovation of the building into an amenity-heavy office complex.
By “amenity-heavy” we mean the building’s estimated 12,000 workers will also include a rooftop park half as big as the one that’s the centerpiece of Lakeshore East, sports facilities, event space, cafes, and retail space.
That’s all down the road, though. Right now, the building is going through an initial construction phase which involves bringing it up to code, replacing the previously mentioned essential systems, putting in new elevators, windows, and roof. Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicts an aggressive timetable for all of this, promising pre-leasing this year, and move-ins next year.