Gallery: Old Post Office Renovation Will Give Way to Massive Developmen...


A newly unveiled proposal for the huge old post office in downtown Chicago is only the beginning of a grandiose plan to build a massive mixed-use development. Architect firm Booth Hansen and developers just revealed plans to turn the underutilized area just east of Willis (Sears) Tower into a retail center capped with 120 story twin towers and a 20 acre rooftop park. Planned in three phases, the $3.5 billion dollar project is anchored by a renovation of the historic post office. The next two phases will increase the square footage to 16.1 million square feet – essentially building a small city within the city.

Mega projects have become few and far between in the United States as the real estate market has reeled for the last few years, with only the LEED Gold Civic Center in Las Vegas reaching such scales. The driving force for the retrofit and major development is to create a shopping haven on an international scale. The 2.5 million square foot post office, first built in 1921, is so large an artery street runs beneath it, and being inside the loop public transportation, options are plentiful. High-speed rail could potentially serve the complex, but just in case, the design also includes 12,000 free parking slots (encouraging more car trips and traffic jams).

The first phase of the renovation will turn the post office into retail and a hotel crowned with a glass dome, but will also include a river walk and winter garden. Phase two expands to either side of the post office, adding two, 120-story towers vaguely designated for mixed-use at the east. Two hotel towers sprout at the west and all are connected by a green roof and park. Phase three consists of two residential towers and more parking across the river connected by a pedestrian bridge.

The architect says all the buildings are to be LEED certified and use “potentially ground breaking energy efficiencies.” Further promising that keeping a low carbon footprint will be a high priority.

Economically speaking the scale of the project will need visitors from not just the region, but the country, which can lead to a larger environmental footprint than the building themselves. However, the new construction has the potential to strengthen the urban core of Chicago, encouraging more people to settle in the city’s downtown.

+ Booth Hansen Architects

Post Office photo Wikicommons



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  1. Chris Pople July 21, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    How can I apply for a position?

  2. Andrew Michler July 26, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Excellent comment @lazyready, I think your point is well taken just by looking at the existing post office. No one could afford to build something of such stature now as it would make a fantastic retrofit mixed-use building. The towers seem quite bland and over sized to me, the remodel and additions feel disconnected but the location is tremendous and it takes big thinking to make that portion of downtown Chicago revitalized.

  3. lazyreader July 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Chicago had plans to build the 2,000 foot tall (150 story) Chicago spire. Only to go into default and the project died. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago had a surplus of office space ready for occupancy, why do we need additional towers in the heart of Chicago. Just look at the drawings of these new towers, you can see a uniform similarity of the tallest to shortest. After a while, it gets hard to tell one from another and there isn’t anything really special about any of them, no decoration or ornament or anything that makes us look in awe unless they painted humorous ruler marks every ten stories. We probably will not be able to renovate these buildings, especially the newest ones with the glitziest systems made of the most high tech materials, even the ones that style themselves “green”. Expensive costs just to build them self defeat the green benefits it describes. I think the future of cities lies in smaller buildings (nothing more than 10 or 20 stories or less) with a grasp of humanity still in them so we can approach them and walk around them without feeling as if we just conquered Everest. The growing trend are businesses with employee’s that can work from home. If you work from home, you don’t need to drive or take transit or be stuffed into a building. Buildings with smaller floor plans and small clusters of networked employees will render the cubicle obsolete. Look no further than Washington D.C., which has no skyscrapers, just midrise buildings (a lot of them hideous but a few are interesting). Don’t get me wrong, modern architecture is fine in small doses. Simply look at Baltimore with architectural gems dotted across the city. Look at Howard street district in the city you see a host of renovated buildings of historic value. The architecture of the older buildings is obviously superior, illustrating the fact we have a long way to go to be up to a level that was normal a century ago (to be fair that was easy to do when you were just paying depression era youths less than a dollar an hour or immigrant masons and artists). One could argue the sustainability of such buildings, I disagree. What’s more sustainable than a building that can largely go decades before being renovated. The Romans built bridges we can still drive on. Europe built structures centuries ago that stood up to the plague, fires, the rise of Hitler and two catastrophic wars.

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