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Union Station Redevelopment Includes 5 New Towers, Food Hall, Rooftop Plaza

By David Matthews | May 25, 2017 5:47am | Updated on May 25, 2017 1:57pm
 The $1 billion project would include a food hall, rooftop gardens and new residential and office towers.
Union Station Redevelopment Renderings
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DOWNTOWN — Amtrak and City Hall have picked a developer for a colossal redevelopment of Union Station, a more than $1 billion endeavor that calls for five new high-rises as well as public plazas and a swanky food hall.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman announced Thursday that Chicago-based Riverside Investment and Development will lead the ambitious project, which City Hall expects to be built in three phases over six years.

If built, the development would add 3.1 million square feet of new commercial space to the area and generate 7,000-8,000 permanent jobs, Emanuel said Thursday.

Riverside recently finished a 54-story office tower at 150 N. Riverside Plaza and plans a 51-story tower on the Chicago River next to the Civic Opera House.

"This is an asset that's truly irreplaceable," John O'Donnell, Riverside's chief executive officer, said at Thursday's press conference. "This will really be a magnet for businesses coming to Chicago ... this should be the place they want to land." 

O'Donnell is joined in the venture by Convexity Properties, another local developer that recently opened the Robey Hotel in Wicker Park and is building a Viceroy Hotel in the Gold Coast.

The initial renderings show plans for a pair of new residential towers atop the station's headhouse, which contains the station's storied Great Hall but lacks the vibrant retail Amtrak and city planners seek in the building. The headhouse was built in 1925 and occupies an entire city block.

A 350-room hotel would also occupy the headhouse's upper floors, O'Donnell said. A new, upscale food hall would open in the headhouse along Clinton Street, the renderings show:


[All renderings by Goettsch Partners]

To the south, Riverside envisions expansive new public plazas and rooftop gardens surrounding two new office towers. The project's third phase calls for another residential tower built over active railroads. A 1,600-space parking garage would be demolished to make way for the new towers, which would house 800 parking spaces.

City Hall for years had sought a developer to redevelop the aging train station and surrounding properties as it looks to revitalize the otherwise stodgy cluster of office buildings just west of the Loop. The owner of Willis Tower plans a $500 million renovation a block away from Union Station, and the city opened a new bus depot last year across the street. A New York developer is working to redevelop the long vacant Old Main Post Office, which sits nearby.

About 40 million passengers annually pass through Union Station, said Wick Moorman, Amtrak's chief executive officer. The station serves more than 125,000 daily commuters.

Moorman called the Union Station project an "archetype" for what the train company wants to do at stations across the country.

Emanuel's office said the city prioritized "improved street entrances and pedestrian traffic flow entering and leaving Union Station, as well as improved pedestrian-friendly landscaping and open spaces" when picking a developer.

Riverside's plans are still subject to community presentations and city approval. News of the project arrives as Chicago faces its third straight year of population loss.

O'Donnell seemed unconcerned about the city's population flight, saying his development will serve tech workers and employees of other companies moving Downtown.

"I don't know who's fleeing. The tech population isn't fleeing," O'Donnell said.

Click the slideshow above or scroll down below for more early looks at Union Station's redevelopment:


The new office towers as seen from Clinton Street. 


Union Station's headhouse topped with two new residential towers


A rooftop garden near the new office towers


An aerial view of the project


This floor and others near the top of Union Station would be occupied by a new 350-room hotel. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]


This 1,600 car parking garage would be razed to make way for the new office towers. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]


O'Donnell outlines his vision to reporters Thursday. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]

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