Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday toured the renovated lobby and dusty guts of Chicago’s Old Main Post Office and touted the building as a potential home for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
“There are five transportation choices very close to this building: Amtrak, Metra, [CTA] Blue Line, rapid bus and then you also have the highway exit and entrance…And I probably should add river taxi as a sixth one,” Emanuel said.
“All of that makes this building and other buildings in the area unique. You can have suburban employees. You can have city employees…that optionality is key.”
Brian Whiting, president of Telos Group, the company charged with leasing and marketing the post office, said new owner 601 W LLC is willing to “do whatever it takes” to attract Amazon.” That includes the possibility of joining forces with developers of the adjacent Union Station project to create the eight million square feet that Amazon says it would need to ultimately house as many as 50,000 employees.
Whiting stressed that the three-block area surrounding the Old Main Post Office has nearly $4 billion of investment underway—in housing, infrastructure and rehabilitation of “iconic buildings” like the post office and Willis Tower.
Emanuel stressed that Amazon wants to “flip the switch and be able to have a headquarters that’s operable on day one.”
Whiting said the Old Main Post Office will be “ready [for Amazon] six months before day one.”
On Wednesday, the lobby renovations were the only thing that looked ready.
The innards of the building were a dusty mess stripped “to the bones,” as Emanuel put it.
During a guided tour, the mayor walked into a vault with a heavy steel door that is one of several being retained. They’re remnants of the days when the Old Main Post Office had its own bank and credit union.
Last summer, Emanuel’s bold threat to seize control of the 2.5 million-square foot behemoth that straddles the Eisenhower Expressway culminated in a court-approved agreement with 601W Companies LLC, to begin a five-year, $500 million renovation and restoration.
Earlier Wednesday, Emanuel proved that he wasn’t kidding when he promised to have an “all hands-on-deck, all-resources-to-bear” bid for Amazon’s HQ2 project.
Try more than 1,200 hands.
More than 600 movers-and-shakers have signed on to a committee supporting the drive to win the heated competition for Amazon’s $5 billion investment.
The committee will be co-chaired by a rainbow coalition of heavy-hitters: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz; former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds and Abbott Labs Chairman and CEO Miles White.
Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will serve as honorary vice-chairs. There’s hardly a civic or religious leader or a big-name in business, finance, technology, education and the arts who is not included.
Rauner has spent more than two years denigrating Chicago and campaigning for a turnaround agenda he didn’t get.
But he sounded more like a cheerleader Wednesday, arguing that the committee’s broad base “compellingly represents the assets that Illinois offers business…Their involvement sends a great message about the value of doing business” here.
If only sheer numbers were enough to mask the Chicago’s area’s biggest drawback—the political dysfunction in Illinois that triggered the marathon state budget stalemate that has left Illinois’ massive pension crisis unsolved.
The committee was announced on deadline day for “nominations” for Chicago sites suitable to become home to, what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has called “HQ2.”
City Hall refused to release the list of sites, or even the overall number.
To make the cut, sites had to be submitted, only by the “property owner or an entity with site control.”
Respondents were encouraged to forge partnerships with “other nominating entities.” But they were also required to have “demonstrated experience and wherewithal to perform and deliver a project” that meets the demands laid out in Amazon’s RFP.