Posted: Jul 21, 2011, 9:07 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
CHICAGO | Post Office Redevelopment | 2000 FT / 600 M | 120 FLOORS
Height: 2000 ft / 600m
Floor count: 120
Location: West Congress and South Canal
Architect: Booth Hansen
Developer: International Property Developers
The owner of the Chicago's behemoth old post office building on Thursday unveiled a grandiose plan for redeveloping the long-vacant property and the area around it, including a 2,000-foot skyscraper that would dethrone the Willis Tower as the city's tallest building.
The owner, British developer Bill Davies, promises to transform the area into an "urban mecca" of five residential, office and hotel towers. Yet the three-phase project, which Davis wants to complete in 10 years, faces major economic hurdles, real estate experts said.
Completed in 1932, the post office building was once the world's largest post office. The building, which straddles the Congress Street feeder ramp leading to the Eisenhower Expressway, has been vacant since 1995. It has been the subject of several redevelopment plans, none of which have succeeded.
Davies bought the historic post office building in 2009 for $24.8 million, and is apparently convinced it has a future as something other than a white elephant.
"His concept is that it is not big enough," said Laurence Booth of the Chicago firm Booth Hansen, the designer of the project.
The first phase of the $3.5 billion project calls for converting the inside of the Old Post Office into retail shops and hotel rooms. The west side of the building will house a garage with ramps that would feed directly into Congress Parkway. The Beaux Arts-inspired marble and gold lobby will be restored to its original glory and would serve as the entrance to the shops and a 40-story hotel that would boast views of the Chicago River.
Davies plans to expand the project into three other sites: An empty lot south of West Harrison Street tucked between the Chicago River and South Wells Street; a lot south of Congress Parkway now home to a Holiday Inn and a parking lot; and the site adjacent to the Old Post Office known as the "Sugar House."
He has rights to buy the those properties but has not closed on the deals.
The plan, which was filed with the city on Thursday, is expected to be introduced to the City Council next week. It would then be reviewed by the housing and economic development staff. Typically, such a process can take months.
Once the plan is approved, the company can move with the $450 million first phase within 90 days, said Martin Mulryan, International Property Developers project manager.
Each phase would take three years each to be completed. The second phase, at a cost of about $2 billion, calls for a hotel in the current site of the Holiday Inn and adjacent parking lot, and a 120-story skyscraper at the site of the Sugar House to be used for office, hotel and residential space. The buildings will be raised over a 10 floor platform that would house more retail space.
The final phase calls for the development of the now empty site at the river. It will house 10 floors of retail space and a parking lot. Two 60-story residential towers will be built on top.
All sites will be connected with pedestrian bridges. To connect the site across the river, Davies plans to built a multi-story bridge with space for more retail shops and restaurants.
Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesman for the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development said the developers had met with city staff periodically over the last two years, but declined to comment on the plan or its political prospects.
Booth, the designer of the project, is a well-respected member of Chicago's often-contentious community of architects. But he has never completed anything of this scale.
Booth's finest projects, such as his award-winning renovation of Old St. Patrick's Church at 140 S. Desplaines St., have been considerably smaller. He has designed skyscrapers, however. His largest completed one to date is the 31-story Joffrey Tower at 151 N. State St., which combines retail space, condominiums and the Joffrey Ballet's offices and studios.
Booth also is no stranger to controversial skyscraper plans -- and to the difficulty in getting them built.
In 2007, along with developers James Klutznick and Tim Anderson, he unveiled his design for a 49-story, glass-sheathed condominium tower in north suburban Evanston. At 523 feet, it would have been the tallest building in Chicago's suburbs.
But many Evanston residents argued that the tower would be an over-scaled monstrosity and would uproot local merchants. In response, the plans were dramatically downscaled and in 2009, Evanston approved a downtown height limit of 35 stories.
The project has yet to break ground.
Davies, who has appeared on the Times of London's list of England's richest people, bought a dilapidated post office in 1986 in Liverpool, England and sold it 16 years later in the same condition, angering local politicians.
Last edited by i_am_hydrogen; Jul 23, 2011 at 1:57 AM.