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Developers have ‘completely revised’ controversial Union Station addition [Updated]

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A meeting to discuss the new design is set for September 11

An older rendering of the seven-story, 404-apartment addition.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz

Architectural historians—and unamused Twitter users—can exhale a collective sigh of relief knowing that Union Station’s developers have “completely revised” their plans to build a controversial seven-story, hat-like addition atop the landmarked Beaux Arts building.

The team of Riverside Investment & Development, Convexity Properties, and architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz will reintroduce plans to redevelop the historic station at a community meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 11 in Union Station’s Burlington Room, according to an email from office of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly. The notice mentions both traffic and “architectural” concerns for motivating the redesign:

After the first community meeting on June 25, the original proposal was deemed unacceptable by the community and the Alderman due to architectural and traffic concerns. As a result, the development team decided to completely revise their vision for the project. Their revisions respond directly to the community feedback gathered at the first community meeting.

A spokeswoman for Alderman Reilly confirmed to Crain’s that the new presentation will “look drastically different” than the previous, much-ridiculed proposal. The updated redevelopment plan is expected to ditch the earlier scheme’s 404 apartments while boosting the number of hotel rooms from 330 to 400.

Given the shape of the existing building and its enormous central skylight, any expansion of Union Station is limited when it comes to potential layouts. It’s likely that the revised proposal will still take the doughnut shape of the June plan or perhaps something akin to two-tower configuration shown in spring 2017.

Meanwhile, the same developers are working to eventually replace an Amtrak-owned parking garage south of the station with a new 1.5 million-square-foot office tower. That plan, which has yet to be shown to the public, will need to go through the city’s zoning approval process, starting with Alderman Reilly.

Update (September 4, 2018): Leaked renderings showing the second phase tower of Union Station’s redevelopment were published Friday evening by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The images reveal a new park and plaza across next to the station’s transit center and a glassy building visually similar to Riverside Investment & Development’s 110 N. Wacker project. The design features the same stepped shape and undercut western facade with angled columns of its under-construction sibling.

The developers have already lined up an anchor tenant for the tower that will “bring several thousand jobs to the city,” said the Sun-Times report. While the identity of the tenant is unknown, a number of companies—including high-profile tech firms like Google and Salesforce—are reportedly eying major downtown expansions. In July, Facebook signed a major lease in the Loop’s newly completed CNA Center at 151 N. Franklin Street.

The office tower is expected to “debut at a public community meeting soon,” according to the report. It’s unclear if that means the plans will be presented with the revised proposal for the station’s headhouse at the September 11 meeting. With a big tenant on the hook, the development team—and City Hall—will likely want to move as quickly as possible.

Union Station

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