Posts tagged with "Chicago Union Station":

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Will a proposed addition turn Chicago’s Union Station into the new Soldier Field?

In 2004, Chicago watched historic Soldier Field become a toilet bowl. In 2019, Union Station will become a self-inked address stamper. During a public meeting on June 25, Chicago-based architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) unveiled plans to construct a seven-story glass addition to the 1925 Graham, Anderson, Probst & White train station in the West Loop. Along with Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, SCB outlined the details of the proposal, including a hotel, apartments, an office complex, and retail. If implemented, Union Station would rise in height from 150 to 245 feet, with the proposed glass rectangle atop the existing office tour delivering 404 apartments. The multi-story main building, or headhouse, would become 330 hotel rooms. Along with landmarks review, the redevelopment will need both aldermanic and zoning approval before moving forward with what will be the first phase of changes for Union Station. A second phase will add an office skyscraper south of the headhouse, while a third phase will build an apartment tower over an existing train platform nearby. With Union Station in the middle of a $22 million skylight restoration, the plan released on June 25 deviates dramatically from the one outlined in the station’s 2012 master plan, calling for two new twelve story residential towers above the headhouse. Other aspects of the master plan have already been implemented, including the restoration of the grand staircase and the Burlington Room. Listed as a Chicago Landmark in 2002, the new plans for Union Station will also require a review by The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) before a permit is provided. While Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, along with SCB, have been careful in their attempt to show that the addition will do no harm to the components of the building that make it architecturally significant, the addition reads as out of scale and context for the existing building. With the CCL charged to examine the appropriateness of proposed work on Chicago Landmarks in relation to the spirit of the Landmarks Ordinance, the plan as presented should be considered by the CCL as an adverse effect on a designated local landmark. If approved, the addition on Union Station could cause a paradigm shift in the way Chicago Landmarks are approached by potential developers, broadcasting a message that cultural and architectural resources are only of value if they are monetized to their fullest extent, and that the Landmarks Ordinance can soften in the face of economic motivators. The proposed addition is not only an imbalance in terms of design, it’s also condescending to the station itself, the architectural equivalent of a head patting, or worse. Ringing out like the 2004 renovation of Soldier Field (a project that curiously won an award for design excellence by the AIA the same year it was recommended to be stripped of its National Historic Landmark designation), this is new bullying old.
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Chicago Union Station renovation will brighten its Great Hall

In a city of spectacular interior spaces, perhaps the most iconic is the Great Hall of the Chicago Union Station. Built in 1925, the light-filled waiting area is finally getting the renovation it deserves. Construction is now underway on the $22 million project that will completely refurbish the 219-foot-long skylight and repair plaster throughout. Union Station was originally designed by Daniel Burnham, but was completed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White after Burnham’s death. The Beaux-Arts structure now serves both Amtrak and the regional commuter Metra trains. Over the past 90 years, the great hall has slowly degraded due to leaks in the epic skylight, but recent years have seen the beginning of its revitalization. In 2016, the iconic marble stairs made famous in the climatic shootout scene in The Untouchables were completely renovated. Both the stair renovation and the current overhaul of the Great Hall are led by Chicago-based Goettsch Partners. When the staircase was being worked on, the area was closed off, much to the chagrin of tourists who came to see the site of the famous scene. To maintain movement through the Great Hall for this renovation, all the construction will be done without closing the space. Instead, decks will be suspended from the 115-foot-tall ceiling, negating the need for obtrusive scaffolding. To address the skylight’s water problems, each of the 2,052 pieces of glass will be replaced and a new third layer of glass will be added above the entire opening. The new high-efficiency, fully transparent glass panes will replace the current wire-embedded glass, and the end result is expected to allow about 50 percent more light into the space. Once the significant water damage on the walls is repaired, the entire Great Hall will be repainted in its original color. This phase of Union Station’s renovation is being funded by Amtrak, who owns the building, and is expected to be completed in late 2018. By that time, we may also have more information about Goettsch Partners' ambitious plans to redevelop the station and its surroundings, including the proposal to add two towers to the building’s roof.
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New towers will rise atop Chicago Union Station as part of redevelopment

The redevelopment of the Chicago Union Station has been a long time coming. The 1925 Beaux Arts station has seen minor repairs in the past few years, but a recently released master plan envisions a complete redevelopment of the historic building and the surrounding area.

Led by Riverside Investment & Development Co., the Goettsch Partners–designed master plan will take the form of 3.1 million square feet of new commercial, retail, and residential space. Divided into three phases, work will begin in the historic headhouse and continue to neighboring properties, owned by Amtrak, above the below-grade railroad tracks. When complete, five new towers will rise above and around the station.

“This building was envisioned by Daniel Burnham in the 1909 Plan for Chicago as the city’s primary rail station,” said Amtrak President and CEO Charles W. “Wick” Moorman IV to the press at the announcement of the master plan. “It is in that spirit, that we have big plans for both this headhouse building and nearby properties owned by Amtrak.”

The headhouse, originally designed by Burnham and completed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White after his death, is considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece. With its 110-foot-tall skylit great hall, the headhouse has often been used as the backdrop of films, most notably in the climax of the 1987 movie The Untouchables. The new master plan calls for a dramatic addition to the headhouse: Initial designs call for two 12-story residential towers to be added to the top of the building. The existing top portion, which is currently office space, will also be redeveloped. While adding towers to the top of the historic structure may seem drastic, it should be noted that the original design called for a commercial skyscraper to sit atop the building. This technique of matching civic spaces with office high-rises was once popular in Chicago, most famously in the cases of the Auditorium Theatre and the Lyric Opera House.

The rest of the development will follow another once-common building practice associated with Union Station. Immediately to the south of the headhouse, three new towers will take advantage of air rights over a set of 14 tracks that run into the station. The Chicago Daily News building and the Chicago Main Post Office, two of Chicago’s most recognizable art deco icons, were built in the same way, straddling the tracks to the north and south of the station.

Along with the towers, the master plan calls for improvements to the passenger experience as well. Despite serving over 50,000 guests a day, the station, which is mostly underground, is outdated and generally unpleasant. Street-level retail, historic restoration, and a new food hall will all be addressed in the redevelopment. A hotel has been proposed for above the headhouse, and publicly accessible terraces and plazas are also included in the master plan.

Considering Chicago Union Station is the only major train station in Chicago, and the third busiest in the country, its surroundings have seen surprisingly little development over the years. The most recent addition to the area is a $40 million bus transit center designed by Chicago-based Muller+Muller. Ironically, that station will have to be demolished and rebuilt to be integrated into the proposed master plan. But, since no hard dates have been set to implement the new plan as it negotiates the financial side of the project, the transit station is safe for now.

While every major development in Chicago brings with it scores of critics and champions, this one has the potential to spark particularly lively discussions. If the architecture of the project at all resembles the renderings of the master plan, many Chicagoans will have something to say about putting two glass towers on top of their much-loved Beaux Arts landmark.

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Arup selected to lead Chicago’s Union Station renovation

After years of rumors, Chicago’s Union Station improvement project has taken its first steps forward with the announcement of a lead designer. The global design and engineering firm Arup has been tapped to carry out a total of 13 upgrades to the station, which include expanding concourses and platforms as well as adding a new ventilation system. Amtrak, who is in charge of the renovation effort, owns the station as well as the air rights. Earlier in the year they sent out a request for information to developers in order to choose a firm who could handle the master plan. Union Station the third-busiest rail terminal in the U.S., after New York's Grand Central and Penn Station. The vast majority of its 120,000 daily riders use Metra, Chicago’s commuter railroad. According to Metra board chairman Marty Oberman, the station wasn’t set up to support such a large volume of people when it opened in 1925. Outlining the major issues that needed to be addressed by the renovation, Oberman told the Chicago Sun Times that “the platforms were built for another era. They’re far too narrow. When we have weather back-ups and so forth, we can have very serious crowd control problems with the way this station is designed. The concourse has way outlived its usefulness...We all know that the ventilation system desperately needs to be redone. We hear about that constantly from our passengers.” Amtrak has not yet put a price tag on these improvements, although Oberman suggested it would add up to “several hundred million dollars.” Daily commuters, who have long lamented the difficulty in navigating the aging station, will likely consider the improvements long overdue.
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Blobs, Turf, and High-Slung Hammocks Among Chicago’s “Active Union Station” Winners

The Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago announced the winners of its “Active Union Station” competition, which is meant to enliven the railroad hub's underused public spaces. Although it’s the nation’s third busiest train station and gets more daily traffic than Midway Airport, Chicago's Union Station remains basically a waypoint on a longer trip. Two winners and a runner-up hope to change that. “Blah Blah Blob!” will take over the Plaza of Fifth Third Center, and “trainYARD” will sprout in the Great Hall. “I Searched High and Low for You” is the runner-up. The visual inspiration for Latent Design & Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative’s “Blah Blah Blob!” is, in part, the rip-stop nylon canvas elementary school teachers used to inflate around giddy students during recess. “Remember how much fun this was?” asks the entry’s visual plan. “Yeah, you do.” Astroturf completes the experience inside the brightly colored blob, which will move around the plaza throughout the exhibit’s duration. “trainYARD” brings the park lawn indoors, “putting it right in the middle of their daily routine.” The design by SPACETIME includes recycled-grass areas for tetherball, croquet and bocce, as well as picnic tables and lawn chairs. Runner-up “I Searched High and Low for You,” by Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, envisions a slew of red hammocks along Union Station’s Canal Street arcade, slung over a row of what appear to be floating orbs high overhead. Their appearance would be striking, acting as a “beacon for the city,” and a gallery of hammocks — not to mention their almost sculptural accent to the arcade’s parade of columns — would bring some activity to a lonely corridor. View the full list of entries here. The winners will receive $5,000 to implement their ideas between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2. Fifth Third Bank sponsored the competition, which served as the Metropolitan Planning Council’s fifth annual Placemaking Contest.
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Contest Aims To Enliven Chicago’s Union Station

Although it gets more daily traffic than Midway Airport, Chicago’s main rail hub remains little more than a waypoint for most people—a bustling transit station buried beneath an often empty Beaux Arts volume. The Metropolitan Planning Council wants to change that. Their new placemaking contest, Activate Union Station, calls on architects, landscape architects, planners and designers of all stripes to submit ideas for a design-build program that will enliven the underused West Loop hub. Two winners will receive $5,000 each to make their ideas happen at any of three Union Station hotspots between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2: the Headhouse, located west of Canal Street; the east-facing arcade on Canal Street; and the Plaza of Fifth Third Center, along the Chicago River. The nation’s third-busiest rail hub, accommodating more than 120,000 Amtrak and Metra passengers every day, Union Station already recognized the need to invite people to stop and stay in its 2011 Master Plan, as they do in D.C. and Philadelphia. Entries are due July 24 at 5:00 p.m. to activateunionstation.com.