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George K

Ambitious Restoration and Redevelopment at Chicago Union Station

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Glad you advised not to comment on the architecture MrUptempo or I might be tempted to say something about the two ridiculous apartment buildings stuck on top of historic Union Station, instead of being planted on terra firma where they belong.

 

Well, if you won't, I will: UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY! Certainly, they could do better (even with initial renderings) to find a way to better blend in new development with an historic building.

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Isn't the headhouse a listed monument?

 

I can understand that money talks and that empty space doesn't make money, but if they must do something, why not something more in keeping with the historic character of the building?

 

Furthermore, has anybody thought about what the higher buildings will do to the amount of natural light entering the main hall?

 

 

As the article points out, the original architects intended in the original 1920s plans for Union Station that a taller building would be "stuck on top". As can be seen here: https://chicagology.com/skyscrapers/skyscrapers044/

 

 

The designs are in keeping with what had been originally planned. In fact, by only building along two sides more light will probably be allowed in than if the proposed addition completely surrounded the Great Hall as envisioned way back when.

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Interesting that Union Station "bones" can support a 30 story building. I imagine the engineers will be going over those old "bones" with a fine tooth comb to make sure its still capable of supporting that weight.

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Glad you advised not to comment on the architecture MrUptempo or I might be tempted to say something about the two ridiculous apartment buildings stuck on top of historic Union Station, instead of being planted on terra firma where they belong.

 

Well, if you won't, I will: UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY! Certainly, they could do better (even with initial renderings) to find a way to better blend in new development with an historic building.

 

Compared to what, exactly? Maybe in a perfect world they could keep everything closer to the original design but these days the only industry that is flush with tax money is the US military. This is downtown Chicago where commercial and residential space is at a premium. Amtrak needs all the money they can get and there will be plenty of customers ready to buy any space they can create. All things considered this looks perfectly fine to me.

 

 

I imagine the engineers will be going over those old "bones" with a fine tooth comb to make sure its still capable of supporting that weight.

 

We can only hope.

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The building is designed to support an "overbuild".

 

This was done with a small historic two-story building where I live, in Ithaca, NY, which is now a five-story building. It looks great. You can't see at at all from nearby (since it's set back a little, from ground level right on the same street as the building, you see only the historic part of the building) and from a distance, it looks cool. It added much-needed office space to downtown. I am totally in favor of construction which adds height to a building without demolishing the old building or seriously changing its appearance.

 

For reference, the building in Ithaca after:

https://ithacavoice.com/2016/08/carey-building/

 

and before:

http://www.biotech.cornell.edu/news/ithaca-business-incubator-locate-carey-building

 

This is just a MUCH better thing to do than tearing down the old building like they did with the concourse of Union Station. It's like having a whole new building next door, but instead of being next door, it's on top :-) I really want to encourage this concept to completely replace teardowns of old commercial buildings, but I guess not all commercial buildings were designed for the extra weight.

Edited by neroden

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222 Riverside remains a problem. Imagine how great it would be if they'd been thinking this way when they'd built it, and had left the Union Station concourse in place *underneath* a skyscraper.

 

I really look forward to having a hotel IN Chicago Union Station -- something which works quite wonderfully in Denver -- but I think only 4 floors is actually seriously underestimating the demand which such a hotel will get. It's going to be way more popular than they think, even though it will be really expensive. (I can now afford to, so I would most likely stay there every time I went to Chicago, if they could accomodate my fabric allergies.)

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Isn't the headhouse a listed monument?

 

I can understand that money talks and that empty space doesn't make money, but if they must do something, why not something more in keeping with the historic character of the building?

 

Furthermore, has anybody thought about what the higher buildings will do to the amount of natural light entering the main hall?

My guess is that the design with two towers on the North and south side of the clear roof was created to maximize sunlight. As long as this is true and no part of the structure is destroyed, I actually like the design presented in the posted images.

 

I guess some part of the structure will certainly have to be destroyed as there will need to be separate entrances and elevators and stairwells amd whatnot. But as long as they only tear out some of the more tatty bits away from the parts the public see, and espcially leave the main hall and the facades alone, I guess this doesn't matter much.

 

 

There is a hint that additional entrances are in the offing-

 

bIeiUSY.jpg

Image Source - amtrak.com

 

This is the Jackson Street side of Union Station, looking east from Clinton. You might notice what appears to be awnings, five flank either side of the current Jackson Street entrance, made accessible via new staircases. I would have to imagine that those additions would signal either additional entrances for the residential/office/hotel portions or some sort of small scale retail. The announcement did mention developing street-facing retail to add a little vibrancy, though it wasn't specific as to where.

 

Also, the former taxi drive entrance, the large arch on the Clinton side just north of the intersection, appears to be permanently closed off in the rendering, with an "e" visible (perhaps the last letter in "Entrance") over what looks to be new doors.

 

===========================================================================

 

The new food hall, which will be located inside the former Harvey House lunch room appears to have three new entries punched out of the facade, to allow access directly off Clinton Street.

 

1GAMkkx.jpg

Image Source - amtrak.com

 

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association, in their proposal to improve Union Station, advocated converting the former lunch room into a grand entrance off Clinton. While this is no grand entrance, one can envision Metra commuters using the new doors and cutting through the food hall to get to their trains.

 

These are just peeks into plans not yet finalized, but it does illustrate the ability to provide new entrances without altering the structure in any way that would jeopardize its landmark status .

Edited by MisterUptempo

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Today's (I think) Chicago Tribune had a big article on this by their architectural critic. While a few aspects of the design got some positive comments, the overall assessment in the review was very negative. The critic seemed to think that many of the new public spaces and plazas would be unpopular and seldom used.

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Glad you advised not to comment on the architecture MrUptempo or I might be tempted to say something about the two ridiculous apartment buildings stuck on top of historic Union Station, instead of being planted on terra firma where they belong.

 

Well, if you won't, I will: UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY! Certainly, they could do better (even with initial renderings) to find a way to better blend in new development with an historic building.

Compared to what, exactly? Maybe in a perfect world they could keep everything closer to the original design but these days the only industry that is flush with tax money is the US military. This is downtown Chicago where commercial and residential space is at a premium. Amtrak needs all the money they can get and there will be plenty of customers ready to buy any space they can create. All things considered this looks perfectly fine to me.

I think that the building addition ought to have a more historic styling/appearance which would complement the historic facility rather than a Miesian glass tower atop. Actual construction methods can be modern (and create just as much additional space to sell/lease) without the clash of modernistic over classic. Such wouldn't be terribly difficult for a decent architect. But, it likely has to be specified as desirable. Edited by NorthShore

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Phase One involves developing 110,000 square feet of retail in unused space adjacent to the Great Hall. Included would be a food hall, to be located where the Harvey House Restaurant once stood until it was destroyed in a fire decades ago.

 

Apparently this is the only part of the plan that has any thing to do with train travelers.

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I'll reserve judgment until it's actually built. I've seen a few "renderings" of buildings that looked strange/hideous, but then the final version was actually pretty nice.

 

I like the idea of having a hotel at the station. I imagine the rooms will cost a pretty penny, though.

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Maybe Amtrak could learn more than a few things from opening and running their first land-based hotel operation! Imagine a First Class, Five-Star hotel Amtrak hotel complete with all the modern amenities, but with a train-centric twist to the decor and styling of the rooms (each floor perhaps being themed on the First Class offerings of the predecessor railroads who turned their operations over on A-Day.) Amtrak owns the building, right? Use it as a means for expressing the very best, then carrying that same attitude and offering to their core transportation product.

 

But knowing Amtrak, you'd end up mighty disappointed with a fantastic hotel followed by a broken down, malfunctioning and filthy bedroom on your train. Maybe the rooms would be better off themed on the trains Amtrak runs instead. You can even manage to get the malfunctioning toilet system and resulting raw sewer smell as a free amenity! :giggle:

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Glad you advised not to comment on the architecture MrUptempo or I might be tempted to say something about the two ridiculous apartment buildings stuck on top of historic Union Station, instead of being planted on terra firma where they belong.

 

Well, if you won't, I will: UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY! Certainly, they could do better (even with initial renderings) to find a way to better blend in new development with an historic building.

 

Must agree here that the design of those two high apartment buildings on top of Union Station are ugly and destroy the look of a historic landmark.. As for the station itself, Amtrak is doing an excellent job of revitalizing the space but like Penn station, the basement train shed ( that is more like a crawl space), just cannot handle the rush hour crowds well. If you've even been there during rush hours people are shoulder to shoulder cramped like sardines in a can. Chicago may eventually need to reopen one of its old RR stations to accommodate the kind of traffic that will increase over time. Whats left of the train shed is inadequate to do the job.

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Glad you advised not to comment on the architecture MrUptempo or I might be tempted to say something about the two ridiculous apartment buildings stuck on top of historic Union Station, instead of being planted on terra firma where they belong.

 

Well, if you won't, I will: UGLY UGLY UGLY UGLY! Certainly, they could do better (even with initial renderings) to find a way to better blend in new development with an historic building.

Must agree here that the design of those two high apartment buildings on top of Union Station are ugly and destroy the look of a historic landmark.. As for the station itself, Amtrak is doing an excellent job of revitalizing the space but like Penn station, the basement train shed ( that is more like a crawl space), just cannot handle the rush hour crowds well. If you've even been there during rush hours people are shoulder to shoulder cramped like sardines in a can. Chicago may eventually need to reopen one of its old RR stations to accommodate the kind of traffic that will increase over time. Whats left of the train shed is inadequate to do the job.

The only capacity issue is on the south side of the station, where traffic could relatively easily be rerouted to underutilized Lasalle Street Station if necessary. I doubt such a move would even affect Amtrak trains, but instead the south terminal Metra lines. The old railroad stations with the exception of those currently used by Metra have long been built over and are highly unlikely to be reopened.

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Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Tribune, repeatedly confused me by referring, inaccurately, to the Great Hall as Union Station's head house. He ought to know better than that, and realize that the original head house was long ago demolished and has been office building-ed over.

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has been office building-ed over.

Best verbing of a noun I've seen in a long time. :giggle:

 

And, it's the perfect description as well.

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Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Tribune, repeatedly confused me by referring, inaccurately, to the Great Hall as Union Station's head house. He ought to know better than that, and realize that the original head house was long ago demolished and has been office building-ed over.

I believe that is incorrect; the building with waiting, ticketing and offices is properly referred to as the head house while the area which connects the head house with the individual tracks is traditionally known as the "concourse". It is the concourse of Union Station which was demolished in the early 1970s (IIRC). Droege's authoritative Passenger Terminals and Trains does not settle the matter; he uses the "concourse" term numerous times but "head house" only infrequently; his preferred term for what I am calling the head house is "main building."

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Wikipedia says in its short article on the subject that a head house is "an enclosed building attached to an open-sided shed." It goes on to say that "Head house is most commonly encountered as an American railroad term for the part of a train station which does not house the tracks and platforms."

 

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Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Tribune, repeatedly confused me by referring, inaccurately, to the Great Hall as Union Station's head house. He ought to know better than that, and realize that the original head house was long ago demolished and has been office building-ed over.

I believe that is incorrect; the building with waiting, ticketing and offices is properly referred to as the head house while the area which connects the head house with the individual tracks is traditionally known as the "concourse". It is the concourse of Union Station which was demolished in the early 1970s (IIRC). Droege's authoritative Passenger Terminals and Trains does not settle the matter; he uses the "concourse" term numerous times but "head house" only infrequently; his preferred term for what I am calling the head house is "main building."

Admittedly, the Union Station website agrees with this assessment:

 

http://www.chicagounionstation.com/cusfacts.html

 

http://www.greatamericanstations.com/stations/chicago-il-chi/

 

Still, I have a hard time considering a building behind the building that fronts it, a "headhouse."

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:New_Union_Station_Chicago_1924.jpg

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_Union_Station_Plan.jpg

 

Of course, part of the challenge here is the unusual and unique configuration of CUS as a double stub station, with two buildings rather than one.

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Does it really matter what it is called as long as we all agree which part of the built up area we are talking about?

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Does it really matter what it is called as long as we all agree which part of the built up area we are talking about?

Of course it matters, for some.... ;)

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I have a small question, quite trivial, really.

 

In Amtrak's Fiscal Year 2017 Capital Projects List, there is a line item of $4.5 million for "CHICAGO UNION STA HEAD HOUSE DORM ROOMS". Does anyone know what the status of this project might be? Has it started? Is it finished? Will it be abandoned in light of the new development agreement?

 

Like I said, trivial, but I'm still curious.

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Does it really matter what it is called as long as we all agree which part of the built up area we are talking about?

I guess it's sort of like watching a movie or tv show, where the locals all scoff and say, "They got that entirely wrong." Or how people not native to an area make references that the locals never would. "Chi-town", for example. It just rings wrong in the ear. Which is all that I was really saying, initially. Keep the ketchup off your hotdog! ;-) Ew! Edited by NorthShore

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