Delivering the Goods

Chicago's Old Main Post Office gets new developer and a new plan

(601W Companies LLC)

Chicago’s historic Old Main Post Office may finally be redeveloped. The city has announced that the gigantic empty structure has been sold to the New York-based developer 601W Companies LLC for an undisclosed amount.

The Graham, Anderson, Probst & White-designed building was once the largest post office in the world, handling the seemingly endless mail order traffic coming from Chicago retailers such as Marshall Field’s, Montgomery Ward, and Sears. With the decline of those companies and the rise of private shipping companies, among other causes, the post office was completely shut down, with operations moving to another site in 1995. Built between 1921 and 1932, the building has 2,500,000 square foot of floor space, and 18-foot ceilings though out many of its spaces.

Chicago's Old Main Post office is so large a highway goes directly through its center. (Melissa Cuppett/Flickr)

Chicago’s Old Main Post office is so large a highway goes directly through its center. (Melissa Cuppett/Flickr)

Since its closure it has often been used as a film set, including in the recent Batman and Transformers movies. In the years since the city sold the building to private investors, it has changed hands multiple times. With each sale promises of redevelopment ranging from adding high-rises to the top, to cutting an atrium through the building’s heart, have all come to nothing. In February, the city announced that it would take the building back through eminent domain and put out its own RFP for a developer. With the involvement of 601W the city has suspended that plan, at least until June, to give 601W a chance to finish acquiring the building and pursue its redevelopment plan.

Working with Chicago-based architects Gensler, 601W’s $500 million redevelopment plan includes a three-phase renovation that would turn the building into office space. Other amenities will include a three acre rooftop park complex, outdoor cafes, events space, a fitness center, and a public river walk. The first 24 months of construction are planned to bring the building up to code, replace the roof and windows, and restore the facade. The second phase will update the building’s systems, while the third phase will restore the historic lobby and finish tenant spaces.

601W is also the owner of Chicago’s AON Center, Prudential Plaza and the former Montgomery Ward warehouse. Gensler was not immediately available for comment on the project.

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