Details of Union Station Renovation Show Potential, Complexity

We’re learning more of the nitty-gritty details involved in the Union Station redevelopment recently approved by the City of Chicago.

Rendering of the September 2018 Union Station redevelopment

Rendering of the September 2018 Union Station redevelopment

A lot of it is just numbers and trivia, but a few things stand out.

  • The former Harvey House at Union Station will be renovated into a new entrance to the Great Hall from South Clinton Street.  But it will also have plenty of leasable retail space.  Hopefully this space will end up being another restaurant.  There is a huge Harvey House fan base out there. Several new books about the Fred Harvey Company were published recently.  And Harvey Houses at Los Angeles Union Station; Winslow, Arizona; and Las Vegas, New Mexico recently reopened.  We were at the one in Winslow a few weeks ago, and it’s really something special.  If you don’t know what a Harvey House is, you can start here to learn about this slice of America.
  • The city is transferring 425,202 square feet of F.A.R. from the Union Station head house to the block to the south so that the skyscraper can be built.  This should pretty much kill any notion that the office tower planned in the 1920’s will ever be built.
  • The city is selling the air rights above the Union Station Transit Center to Amtrak so that the hotel addition can be built above the Union Station head house.
  • If the pubic park starts to look shabby, blame Amtrak.  It’s responsible for maintenance and repair.  That includes keeping the plants healthy, keeping the park clean, and shoveling the snow.
  • The park must be open to the public from 6:00am to 11:00pm ever day, which is a little unusual.  Ordinarily the hours at these kinds of public/private parks are merely designated as mirroring the hours of the parks maintained by the Chicago Park District.  But this time the hours are quite specific.
  • No one can move in to the office tower until the park is finished.
  • If Amtrak doesn’t want to maintain the park, it can transfer it to another organization like a land conservancy.
  • The developers want to make changes to the Union Station Transit Center to integrate it better into the block it will soon share with a giant skyscraper.
  • New Union Station entrance on South Clinton Street.
  • New street-level retail along the Clinton Street facade.
  • The Amtrak Police station will be renovated.
  • The Metro Deli space will be renovated.
  • Hotel pick-up/drop-off on West Adams Street
  • Hotel A can be accessed from West Adams Street
  • Hotel B can be accessed from West Jackson Boulevard
  • Offices on levels three and four
  • Hotels will be on levels four through nine, with nine being a new floor
  • Walled up Clinton Street windows to be replaced with actual glass
Rendering of the June 2018 plan for Union Station

Rendering of the June 2018 plan for Union Station

And the promised gritty nitties:

  • Land owner: City of Chicago
  • Land owner: National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”)
  • Developer: RC Union Station Development Company, LLC
  • For realsies: Riverside Investment and Development and Convexity Properties
  • Architecture firm: SCB
  • Size: 251,499 square feet
  • Head house maximum retail space: 175,000 square feet
  • Skyscraper maximum office space: 1,500,000 square feet
  • New passenger pick-up and drop-off zones
  • West Adams Street bus lane becomes a traffic lane
  • Head house maximum height: 165 feet (Measured from Canal Street, not Clinton Street)
  • Head house roof height: 155 feet
  • Transit center maximum height: 40 feet
  • Skyscraper maximum height: 715 feet
  • Skyscraper roof height: 700 feet, four inches
  • Skyscraper floors: 50
  • Maximum number of hotel rooms: 400
  • Head house maximum automobile parking: 265 spaces
  • Skyscraper maximum automobile parking: 400 spaces
  • Head house minimum bicycle parking: 50 spaces
  • Skyscraper minimum bicycle parking: 50 spaces
  • Head house loading docks: 4
  • Skyscraper loading docks: 4

Location: 210 South Canal Street, West Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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