DOWNTOWN — Work to restore the long-vacant Old Main Post Office that spans the Eisenhower Expressway is set to begin "immediately," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.
City officials struck a court-approved agreement with the massive complex's new owner, 601W Companies LLC, clearing a legal hurdle that had kept work from getting underway.
In May, the firm 601W announced its $500 million plan to redevelop the 2.7-million-square-foot Art Deco building into new office space plus a public riverwalk and a three-acre rooftop park with outdoor cafes, a track, tennis and basketball courts.
The new agreement lays out a three-phase timeline for the renovation, which is projected to take about five years, according to an announcement from the mayor's office. It also "correct[s] building code violations incurred under the previous owner."
The agreed-upon plan calls to replace the building's roof, install new high-speed elevators and restore the building's historic lobby along with revamping its electrical, heating and plumbing systems, according to the release.
Also baked into the agreement are "requirements for minority-and women-owned business participation in the work to redevelop the facility."
Emanuel's office predicts that the refurbished building will provide space for 12,000 potential new jobs, and create about 1,500 construction jobs in the interim.
601W, which also owns the Aon Center near Millennium Park, entered into contract to buy the massive building earlier this year after City Hall moved to seize it through eminent domain.
The structure has been vacant since 1995 and had been controlled by a venture of British developer Bill Davies since 2009.
Built in 1922 and expanded in 1932, it was once dubbed the world's largest building. Its size helped serve what was then two of the country's largest mail order companies, Sears and Montgomery Ward.
A 1931 Popular Science magazine article described it as "more like a factory than a post office."
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