The latest plan to turn Chicago Union Station into more than what it currently is has a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief.
Riverside Investment and Development, and Convexity Properties dished their new plan for the historic property last night, and it’s a significant improvement over what was previously on offer.
The June version of this project featured an ugly, square hat sitting on top of the the city’s best train station. It was a facade only its mother could love; and even then only because it rubbed her bunions and poured her Jack and Tabs while she watched The Rockford Files.
The new hotness is a Union Station headhouse that is largely left well enough alone, while a glassy blue, 715-foot-tall half-zigurrat eats half of the Amtrak parking garage across West Jackson Boulevard.
It’s half a meal because the other portion of the land the garage squats on now will become… wait for it… a public park.
You can blink now.
How the developers went from defiling a city landmark to squeezing in a half-block park shows that somebody got hit upside the head with a clue-by-four. Maybe they saw the shitshow that happens when your company’s decision making process transitions from visionaries to bean counters (*cough*Apple*cough*) and decided to right the ship before it was surrounded by people with torches and pitchforks.
The new tower design from Goettsch Partners is proposed to have 1.5 million square feet of space, and according to El Tribo, Riverside even has an idea about whom it wants to move in: Montreal’s BMO Harris Bank. If it can get the Québécois to move its Chicago ops from The Loop to the West Loop, this thing is golden.
The tower design is similar to what Goettsch originally put together for Riverside’s 110 North Wacker, just six blocks away. That skyscraper ended up losing its edges, and is on an express bus to Squaresville. Hopefully this second run will keep its tasteful setbacks.
Underneath is a certain amount of ugliness: 400 subterranean parking spaces. But considering the crazy numbers of people constantly searching for Amtrak parking and loading/unloading, we’ll forgive this one.
Back on the historic side of the street, the building everyone knows and loves get one story added to it. It crowns the upper part of the building, which becomes a 400-room hotel.
We’re in favor of the hotel for one simple reason: You can’t travel across the country by rail without stopping and changing trains in Chicago or New Orleans. And when you change trains in Chicago, chances are you’re going to need a proper shower and a place to stay during your layover.
Every day, hundreds of people schlep all of their luggage from Union Station to an overpriced hotel in The Loop just because they have nowhere else to be. (Amtrak lets you bring four full-size suitcases on board for free. Suck it, United.) There’s a reason that O’Hare and other major airports have their own hotels in the airport. Union Station deserves one, too.
This hotel will be an instant hit, not only with long-distance travelers, but with a certain number of locals, as well. Imagine you’re Mr. and Mrs. Brantley McPennyworth from Naperville, and you’ve just gotten your urban fix for the year by seeing RENT for the 11th time at a Loop theater (“Poor Benny, why don’t they just get jobs and pay him?”). After supping on magret of mulard duck, marinated turnips à la Colmarienne and jus de canard (duck breast with turnips and duck gravy) at Everest, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep off that Alsatian riesling at a hotel, then the next morning jump right onto the Metra back to suburbia with the least amount of hassle possible? Soon they can, dropping $43 in hotel tax into the City of Chicago’s pocket, and stuffing a couple of hundred more into the pockets of the hotel owners for lodging, room service dessert, and re-stocking the mini-fridge after Mrs. McPennyworth forgets how many Xanax she had that day.
It could happen.