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George K

Ambitious Restoration and Redevelopment at Chicago Union Station

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When all of the redevelopment is done, how much additional income can Amtrak expect? I feel that maybe Amtrak should follow the lead of FEC and try to gain as much real estate revenue, even if it means forming a subsidiary to deal with it.

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23 hours ago, DSS&A said:

The restoration of the Great Hall is nearing completion. Here are a few photos I took this morning.  The Polar Express display locomotive was installed over the weekend for the holiday season. 

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Preeeeeetty.

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Just a few newer renderings of the office building planned for the Amtrak parking lot.

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image source - Chicago Department of Planning and Development

Updating an earlier post I made in this thread, Salesforce eventually decided to locate to the yet-to-be-built Wolf Point South. The commitment has prompted the developer to push up groundbreaking on the project. The developers of the Union Station office tower are trying to hammer out an agreement to sign BMO Financial, which would combine current Chicago operations, currently spread out among several Loop locations, plus the transfer of some functions from BMO's Montreal home office.

Edited by MisterUptempo

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Not exactly ana mazing feat of architecture in my opinion, but at least it's sufficiently respectful of the old Union Station, so that's one thing to be please about, and also an improvement on the hotchpotch of concrete that's on that site now.

What i don't get is that these modern office towers all have massive ground floor lobbies with esentially wasted space, which essentially leads to the streets feeling like a ghost town if you're  a pedestrian outside of office hours. I would have thought with the proximity to Union Station and all that, they could easily find tenants for some eatery or take out or convenience store on at least one part of that otherwise wated floor area.

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5 hours ago, cirdan said:

What i don't get is that these modern office towers all have massive ground floor lobbies with esentially wasted space, which essentially leads to the streets feeling like a ghost town if you're  a pedestrian outside of office hours.

The redevelopment plan calls for the addition of "175,000 square feet of office, retail and public space inside the station, including a new entrance and windowed shops along Clinton Street." This is in addition to whatever will be left of the current food court and retail operations. So the area is not likely to be a ghost town.  As for the lobby of the office tower, it will be the entrance of the BMO Harris bank HQ (500,000 square feet) and a 400 room hotel. I think from a branding point of view, they would want a dignified entrance space for their enterprises. Putting fast food,  Panera or Starbucks in that lobby would probably not fit the corporate image of the hotel or BMO Harris. I think this revised plan is about the best we can get.

 

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On 12/7/2018 at 4:52 PM, Manny T said:

The redevelopment plan calls for the addition of "175,000 square feet of office, retail and public space inside the station, including a new entrance and windowed shops along Clinton Street." This is in addition to whatever will be left of the current food court and retail operations. So the area is not likely to be a ghost town.  As for the lobby of the office tower, it will be the entrance of the BMO Harris bank HQ (500,000 square feet) and a 400 room hotel. I think from a branding point of view, they would want a dignified entrance space for their enterprises. Putting fast food,  Panera or Starbucks in that lobby would probably not fit the corporate image of the hotel or BMO Harris. I think this revised plan is about the best we can get.

 

True, yes, but then maybe the hotel could run something that is more aligned  with their own clientzele,, such as an up-market wine bar or piano bar or a dignified and classy restaurant that could be out to attract  both their own guests and people using Amtrack.

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On 12/8/2018 at 6:45 AM, Steve4031 said:

This article talks about how these plans don’t address capacity issues at union station. 

https://default.salsalabs.org/Td0d438ad-b001-4b17-b78e-ef9d953b63c3/edd68708-c141-4881-8e11-556bc2f4e918

 

The article makes some interesting points.

 

The whole crowd handling and crowd flow side needs to be re-thought if passenger numbers are to increase, and just adding commercial space and ad-hoc passages is not the solution.

 

Just wondering though, how great a problem is it really not having thru tracks connect between the North and south sides. Is this being overstated? All trains presently  terminate. Would there be a significant number of trains running thru if this was possible, and would this genuinely open new markets, or is this just a wish disconnected with reality?

Edited by cirdan

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CUS certainly has very poor pedestrian circulation plan, if there is one at all that is. I think the article makes a very good point about that. It also suffers from extremely narrow platforms, even worse than Penn Station NY. What were they thinking?

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12 hours ago, cirdan said:

True, yes, but then maybe the hotel could run something that is more aligned  with their own clientzele,, such as an up-market wine bar or piano bar or a dignified and classy restaurant that could be out to attract  both their own guests and people using Amtrack.

Actually, now that the apartment component has been mercifully exorcised from the head house plan, the developers have decided to divide the 400 planned hotel rooms into two separate hotels, under different flags. 240 rooms for one, 160 rooms for the other. And it appears as if the 240 room hotel will, in fact, be more upscale. The entrance for the 160-room hotel will be located on the Jackson Street side; the entrance for the 240-room hotel will be located on the Adams Street side. ETA-Now that BMO will be locating its offices in the Union Station tower, perhaps the upscale hotel will located on the Jackson Street side, so that accessing the hotel will just require crossing Jackson. Who knows?

When I get the chance, I'll upload some graphics from the approved plan that show the layout for both hotels. But I will mention now that one feature that was thrown into the redesign, that surprised me, will be the installation of a swimming pool in Union Station's basement. If I have the location correct, it will be located somewhere under the Burlington Room, where the women's restrooms were located.

Also, the developers are going to bring the taxi drive back into service, for valet parking for hotel guests. Guests will drop off their cars at the entrance of whatever hotel they are staying. Valets will then park the cars on the lower level of the head house. To pick up their cars, guests from both hotels will have to go to the old north taxi drive to get them.

As an aside, in addition to the 400 hotel rooms that are being built in the head house, an additional 615 hotel rooms are slated to be added at 320 S. Clinton, currently a vacant lot across the street from the current Amtrak parking garage. The planned property will be a Toyoko Inn Hotel, which is a Japanese-owned chain which tends to lean on the "no frills" side. There have been some delays over a dispute with the local alderman, but they did some caisson work earlier in the year, and about 6 weeks ago the city finally gave its approval to some design changes, so construction might get started in earnest soon. I mention it because I find it amusing that within a span of 18 months to 2 years, the number of available hotel rooms within spitting distance of Union Station will go from virtually nil to 1015 rooms.

Edited by MisterUptempo

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14 hours ago, MisterUptempo said:

But I will mention now that one feature that was thrown into the redesign, that surprised me, will be the installation of a swimming pool in Union Station's basement. If I have the location correct, it will be located somewhere under the Burlington Room, where the women's restrooms were located.

There's already a swimming pool at that level: The Chicago River!

 

 

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On 12/12/2018 at 9:25 AM, jis said:

CUS certainly has very poor pedestrian circulation plan, if there is one at all that is. I think the article makes a very good point about that. It also suffers from extremely narrow platforms, even worse than Penn Station NY. What were they thinking?

As designed, with the original open Concourse building, it had great flow.  Of course, they torn down half the station and replaced it with a rabbit warren underneath office towers in its place, a rabbit warren so cramped it kind of makes Penn Station look good.  Then for many years Amtrak essentially moved out of the great hall, and all services were stuffed into the rabbit warren that replaced the original open Concourse, making things worse.  That is a mistake they are starting to undo.

The narrow platforms are probably at least in part because they had the separate baggage platforms on the other side of the track from the passenger loading platform so that checked baggage handling (and maybe red caps back in the day, don't know about that) didn't conflict with passengers.  They are talking about taking at least some of those out so they can relocate some tracks and widen the platforms, btw.

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