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George K

Ambitious Restoration and Redevelopment at Chicago Union Station

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To be perfectly honest I've never truly understood what a "head house" is or how it differs from any other enclosed area. It seems to be a term than is so vague in meaning and so rare in usage that it probably confuses more than it clarifies.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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I guess I assumed head house was analogous to the landside portion of an airport terminal, usually containing areas for baggage and ticketing, with the station concourse being analogous to the airside portion of an airport terminal. Of course, this becomes a bit jumbled in the case of Chicago, where until recently Amtrak had few if any services in the head house (Great Hall) area.

 

Then again, maybe I'm mixed up as well.

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Yeah, try separating the Headhouse from the Concourse in New York Penn Station :D

 

Or even for example, in Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

 

OTOH, there are many stations where it is relatively straightforward, like for example in Washington Union Station.

Edited by jis

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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.

 

 

Aren't they shifting some over to LaSalle Street once some track work is done anyways?

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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.

 

 

Aren't they shifting some over to LaSalle Street once some track work is done anyways?

 

Pretty sure the thought has been that Metra SouthWest Service would be shifted to LaSalle if/when the connection is built near 75th St. to link the SWS with the Rock island District line.

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The plans are to shift the Southwest Service trains to LaSalle Street, but that would require the CREATE rebuilding of the 75th Street and it is quite a ways in the future. It will not be an "easy" shift.

There are no plans to shift any BNSF or Heritage Corridor trains to LaSalle.

Edited by MikefromCrete

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Amtrak could write the hotel lease for availability of so many rooms per year due to over late train passenger connections. The work on the station should if possible create enough clearances for CAT for electric train services. Maybe some overhead ceilings raised or removed ?

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And the winner is:

Today's Union Station, the building containing the Great Hall, is the Head House.

The Concourse was destroyed in 1968, and an office building was built over the tracks. As explained in the following:

Chicago Union Station is in fact, not a station (like Penn Station, New York or 30th St. Station, Philadelphia,) but two stub end terminals back-to-back. The lack of through tracks reduces capacity and makes it difficult to schedule the through trains the region needs.

On the passenger side, a major change in design really messed the place up.

When the station opened in 1925 there were two connected buildings designed to process large crowds efficiently.

The headhouse, on the west side of Canal Street held the main waiting room, ticket counters, customer service and retail.

old_concourse_interior_thumb.jpg
The original concourse was designed to process large crowds quickly and efficiently.

The concourse, on the east side of Canal Street, was dedicated to getting people to their trains efficiently. It had an open floor plan so passengers could quickly identify and move to their gate and queue up for their train.

Then in 1968, the Concourse was demolished. A new concourse was constructed in the basement of a new high-rise office building. The supporting columns of the buildings above severely limited space in the concourse. Then in 1990, the ticket counters, waiting rooms and other passenger related functions were moved into the concourse.

Now, Amtrak, Metra and the City of Chicago are working to correct those mistakes.

http://fixunionstation.com/bad.shtml

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The plans are to shift the Southwest Service trains to LaSalle Street, but that would require the CREATE rebuilding of the 75th Street and it is quite a ways in the future. It will not be an "easy" shift.

There are no plans to shift any BNSF or Heritage Corridor trains to LaSalle.

 

The 75th Street Corridor Project Tier I EIS received a Record of Decision in 2014 and nothing has happened since. Money is at the heart of the matter. A recent editorial was published in the Chicago Tribune about the stalled project. Invoking Fair Use, a couple of snippets from the editorial follows.

 

As far back as 2005, an initiative called CREATE (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency) began planning to relieve congestion around and in Chicago, including at the 75th Street Corridor. CREATE is a partnership of federal, state and city transportation officials, Amtrak, Metra and freight rail companies. Twelve years later, though, the 75th Street Corridor is as congested as ever. Why?

 

One word: money, as in not enough of it. Solutions will be expensive — two flyovers and a grade separation, along with a series of other improvements. Overall price tag: $1 billion. Right now, the goal is to finish design work and begin construction. That would cost $473 million, and CREATE's plan was to divvy up the bill: 41.7 percent paid by state and local governments, 34.8 percent by the feds and 22.5 percent by the freight railroads.

To get the federal share, the state, Chicago and Cook County last year teamed up to ask the Obama administration for a $160 million grant. But that request required a commitment from the railroads for their share. The railroads wouldn't budge, says U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, a strong advocate for fixing the 75th Street bottleneck. "There had been discussions with the railroads, and they did not want to participate in any grant applications," Lipinski tells us.

 

Lipinski and state and local officials kept pressing the railroads to pay their share, and in the waning days of Obama's presidency, the railroads agreed. But with one foot out of the White House, Obama bequeathed the grant request to the Trump administration. It's still pending but, so far, President Donald Trump hasn't shown much enthusiasm for rail projects. His preliminary 2018 budget proposal calls for big spending cuts to mass transit — and projects to unclog freight rail traffic.

 

 

-snip-

 

One project already completed, CREATE's $142 million Englewood Flyover project, separated north-south Metra trains from an east-west rail line used by freight trains and Amtrak. The railroads put up $3 million — just 2 percent of the price tag — while federal and state taxpayers shouldered the rest. CREATE, however, is supposed to be a public-private partnership, not solely a government endeavor. Lipinski says the railroads should shell out more money for CREATE projects.

 

 

The entire editorial can be found at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-rail-freight-chicago-trump-edit-jm-20170516-story.html

 

Also, Amtrak's You Tube channel provides a great illustration of the problems at 75th Street and the proposed solution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aer4P5jNrms

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Of course, in Chicago, we do have an old intercity train station (Dearborn) headhouse remaining, without a concourse or platforms, as well as a former intercity station (ex C&NW, now UP/Metra commuter) with platforms/concourse but a demolished head house replaced by an office/retail building, and a former intercity station (LaSalle) with platforms, no real concourse, and a building where the head house formerly stood.

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And, I guess Randolph Street/Millennium Park could be said to have a concourse with no real head house. Though, at one time there was a small entrance building on the far north end of the platforms.

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And, I guess Randolph Street/Millennium Park could be said to have a concourse with no real head house. Though, at one time there was a small entrance building on the far north end of the platforms.

 

You mean you don't consider the Prudential Building to be the headhouse? (Or Illinois Center is the headhouse for the South Water exit)

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The Great Hall and skylight are finally getting their makeover. Invoking Fair Use on material from Amtrak's website-

Skylight to be restored and protected, water damage repaired
CHICAGO – In about a year, customers of Amtrak, Metra and other users of Chicago Union Station will enjoy a Great Hall painted in its original colors, made brighter by a restored and protected skylight with improved lighting in a $22 million project.

---SNIP---

In order to maintain the historic appearance of the skylight from within the Great Hall and to overcome the complications of the existing drainage system, the team will construct a modern energy-efficient, skylight above the historic skylight. The new skylight will protect the historic skylight with a new drainage design and maintenance system.

When finished, natural light into the Great Hall is expected to increase by about 50 percent by replacing the 2,052 pieces of glass in frames that had been made bigger over the years in a failed effort to prevent leaks in the historic skylight. The panes will be transparent, rather than the wire-embedded glass that was used previously. The new skylight will have 858 panes of clear, high-efficiency glass, five feet above the historic skylight.

Once the skylight and roof work has been completed, ensuring that the Great Hall will remain dry, the historic skylight – along with water-damaged plaster and stone – will be restored. The finishes will include the return of the historic paint colors to the walls and ceiling.


4kZUZjh.jpg


mmuzkm6.jpg

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img src - media.amtrak.com

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB50av5cAIE

 

Link to the full story, including more photographs - https://media.amtrak.com/2017/09/cus-project/

Edited by MisterUptempo

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Exciting developments ahead.

 

I like the idea of placing a new skylight over the historic one. This should finally solve the long enduring problem of water ingress, while at the same time allowing restoration to its former glory..

 

I notice the old skylight has catwalks and stairs on the outside, presumably to allow acces for inspection and repairs.

 

The new one doesn't seem to have any of that.

 

How will that get inspected and repaired?

 

And what this about restoring the original colors?

 

What colors did the Great Hall have originally?

Edited by cirdan

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As I recall from a tour earlier this year, not drastically different color, but more authentically stone faux finishes (and cleaning the actual stone) and regilding where applicable. There are some sections already done or stripped as test sections - I'm sure somebody can find and post them.

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This is what you call going from bad to worse...

43mzmZ2.jpg

img src - crain's chicago business

 

This, to refresh memories, was the initial proposal

ZjqVfge.png

img src - amtrak.com

 

And this is the what the original architects envisioned-

KzmQ3fK.jpg

img src - chicagology.com

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The revised version looks top-heavy and awful. Why on earth would they go with a glass monstrosity like that when they can simply continue the historic look of the station (and make it look balanced)? Did they go to the Soldier Field Academy of Design?

 

I don't think using the original architects' plans would be as ziggurat-ish as people imagine. Back then, perhaps, but not now. Union Station is surrounded by skyscrapers.

 

(Edited for clarity)

Edited by SarahZ

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And the winner is:

Today's Union Station, the building containing the Great Hall, is the Head House.

The Concourse was destroyed in 1968, and an office building was built over the tracks. As explained in the following:

Chicago Union Station is in fact, not a station (like Penn Station, New York or 30th St. Station, Philadelphia,) but two stub end terminals back-to-back. The lack of through tracks reduces capacity and makes it difficult to schedule the through trains the region needs.

On the passenger side, a major change in design really messed the place up.

When the station opened in 1925 there were two connected buildings designed to process large crowds efficiently.

The headhouse, on the west side of Canal Street held the main waiting room, ticket counters, customer service and retail.

old_concourse_interior_thumb.jpg

The original concourse was designed to process large crowds quickly and efficiently.

The concourse, on the east side of Canal Street, was dedicated to getting people to their trains efficiently. It had an open floor plan so passengers could quickly identify and move to their gate and queue up for their train.

Then in 1968, the Concourse was demolished. A new concourse was constructed in the basement of a new high-rise office building. The supporting columns of the buildings above severely limited space in the concourse. Then in 1990, the ticket counters, waiting rooms and other passenger related functions were moved into the concourse.

Now, Amtrak, Metra and the City of Chicago are working to correct those mistakes.

http://fixunionstation.com/bad.shtml

 

I missed seeing this when it was posted...but anyone familiar with the story of Penn Station - New York reading it will get....in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "deja-vu all over again". :)

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The revised version looks top-heavy and awful. Why on earth would they go with a glass monstrosity like that when they can simply continue the historic look of the station (and make it look balanced)? Did they go to the Soldier Field Academy of Design?

 

I don't think using the original architects' plans would be as ziggurat-ish as people imagine. Back then, perhaps, but not now. Union Station is surrounded by skyscrapers.

 

(Edited for clarity)

To read an account of someone who attended the presentation this evening, the decision to cantilever the residential addition is strictly economic in nature.

 

The architect explained that the floor plates of the offices immediately below the addition are only 50 feet deep. In order to be able to accommodate a residential building with a double-loaded corridor (with more rentable units), the floor plates would need to be around 70 feet deep. As such, the building will hang over Union Station about ten feet and intrude into the light well (where the Great Hall's skylight is located) by another ten feet.

 

I just don't get the design. It's a mess. At least the initial proposal attempted to pay tribute to the head house's grand architecture. Not anymore. They didn't even try to continue the lines of the original. I wouldn't even object to a contrasting design, if the design broke any new ground. This is just pedestrian; an insult, because it looks like they really didn't give a damn.

 

Union Station is a registered city landmark, so perhaps we'll see some design revisions before they receive approval. If nothing else, the person responsible for producing the rendering did us the favor of disappearing 222 South Riverside. :giggle:

Edited by MisterUptempo

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It was a principle in neo classicist and beaux arts architecture that you had a progression from the lower floor to the upper. So typically on the lower floors you have rendering with relatively coarse stones and then you have a level or ledge and on top of that you proceed with a somewhat finer stone, maybe also the decorations progress from rough to more refined. And then you do another cuorse, and reach the next level of refinement. And so on. Look at any large building from that period and you see the general principle. At the same time you get a progression in the windows. Lower floors typically have arched windows. An arch is a structural element used for its strength. The ancient Romans used arches for things like foundations and basements and aqueducts. Things that weren't supposed to be pretty but just functional. Of course by the renaissance period and since, arches were cosnidered decorative, but they were also used as a reference to their original purpose. As you move up into the more refined parts, you get rectangular windows which represent a greater degree of refinement.

 

The idea behind that was that you represent the progression from earth to sky. Think of an old castle on a rock, or a rocky pier in the sea. At the lowest level you have the natural rock formation as nature made it, maybe just blasted to the right shape, and the on top of that there is a massive retaining wall made of large blocks, designed more to be stable and provide a good fouhdation that for any intrinsic use of their own, then on top of that you get the parts of the building where people live and work, that are of real use, and then you have the battlements or turrets or roof shape, finally you get things like chimney stacks reaching into the sky. The building as a whole thus forms a bridge between earth and sky.

 

Now to apply this to Union Station, having a glass tructure on top does certainly capture that sentiment of getting lighter and more sky-like as you go up.

 

But maybe having a transitional level between that has more glass but also some stone might make it clear that the decison was intentional rather than just, we use glass because its cheap and everyone does it.

Edited by cirdan

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I can tell you right now that several preservation groups are up in arms and will protest and are going to do so vocally. I can't remember now if it was Lohan (Dirk Lohan, Mies' grandson) or Lucien LaGrange (Chicago's preeminent, uh, "classicist"? He does really tacky work) who did the previous very traditional proposal. Frankly, the original proposal (as in original architects) was rather clunky - it looks like Chicago's Clunky City-County Building (people forget that 'City Hall' in Chicago is actually half City and half County) which also was supposed to have a tower atop it.

 

I personally would prefer something light and airy. And, while I like the way they carried the column lines up, a metal facade matching the stone color just won't work well. In fact, the whole thing has quasi-brutalist proportions (corporate brutalist, like for an East Coast 60's Corporate HQ).

 

Being that it is a Landmark, they will need to apply for essentially a variance which will be difficult if there is opposition to it from multiple quarters. I was actually sort of surprised that they would want residential in the building rather than hospitality.

 

As an aside, the Great Hall is under construction and very dark.

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Cirdan:

 

Beaux Arts is one of my favorite architectural styles.

 

Chicago has many beautiful examples of Beaux Arts architecture.

 

This proposed atrocity is not one of them. ;)

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Me personally I wish they could just leave a landmark alone. It's a landmark for a reason because it has some historical significance in its current form. I say leave it alone. If you want to develop a train station just throw another office tower over the train shed at Northwestern.

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