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Déjà Vu: Crews Battle Another Fire at Chicago’s Old Post Office

While things are looking up for the old building, the latest blaze is a reminder of past difficulties

Chicago’s Old Post Office looked poised to turn over a new leaf following its acquisition by New York-based 601W Companies after nearly two decades of vacancy and decay under the prior ownership of Bill Davies’ International Property Developers North America. Despite encouraging recent news, this weekend saw the return of an all-too-familiar headline associated with the hulking 2.7 million-square-foot Art Deco structure: fire.

On Monday morning, emergency crews responded to a small blaze originating from a pile of garbage, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The incident was minor enough to be handled via handheld extinguishers and no injuries were reported. Though the blaze will likely have little to no effect on the planned redevelopment of the structure, the news certainly evoked feelings deja vu.

The Old Post Office has a history of chronic fires, often traced to vagrant squatters or the building's long-neglected condition. In 2012, a fire was caused by inadequate venting of train exhaust below the structure. A similar scene played out in 2014 when yet another blaze was blamed on inoperative ventilation equipment.

These incidents (along with no action to develop the building) influenced to the city’s previous threat to acquire the post office via eminent domain from Bill Davies if a "serious developer" could not be secured. 601W paid $130 million for the property in May and plans a $500 million overhaul of the riverfront property. Davies, in a curious twist of fate, passed away as the deal was in the process of being finalized.

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