Union Station was quite the looker in its heyday, and an ongoing expansion plan hopes to bring back the glory days to the nation's third most popular rail station. Amtrak is now accepting bids to fill 25,000 square-feet of retail space, trying to keep up with more developed transport hubs in cities such as Denver and Seattle, according to the Tribune. Paul Sanders, Amtrak senior manager of facilities management, hinted that a 'major' grocer has expressed interest. Bars and a hotel have also been discussed as possible new additions to Burnham's Beaux-Arts beauty.
The station used to house more than just a food court and bars. Previous tenants included tailors, high-end restaurants, law firms, and even a dance hall. The Women's Waiting Room, a respite for ladies to freshen up in days of yore, may reopen to reveal long-hidden murals from 1925.
With the West Loop and economy booming, Amtrak is ready to sink money into repairs and renovations. Starting in July, the famous marble staircases, worn down by the more than 50,000 passengers who traverse the station every weekday, will be closed, replaced with stone are being recut from the same quarry in Rome that provided it a century ago. Amtrak is also opening The Legacy Club, modeled after airline lounges. For $10, passengers can sit back and partake in free wifi and drinks (of the nonalcoholic variety). When they're ready to board, they have priority.
Other renovations are more practical than aesthetic. The Great Hall now has AC, and the bus transit center on the south side of Jackson Boulevard will open in 2016. Clearly, big bucks will be spent, with an additional $12.2 million has been earmarked for station renovation.
· Amtrak plans Union Station makeover [Tribune]
· Riding the Rails: Chicago's History as a Transit Hub in Photos [Curbed Chicago]
· All Union Station coverage [Curbed Chicago]