Amtrak advances plan for a Union Station food hall

The railroad, owner of the downtown terminal, has hired Cushman & Wakefield to market the 21,000 square feet.

SHARE Amtrak advances plan for a Union Station food hall
A rendering of the proposed food hall’s entrance on Union Station’s Clinton Street side.

A rendering of the proposed food hall’s entrance on Union Station’s Clinton Street side.

Amtrak/Goettsch Partners

Amtrak, owner of Chicago’s Union Station, has hired real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield to find an operator for a food hall it hopes will revitalize the Clinton Street side of its downtown terminal.

Cushman is marketing 21,000 square feet for lease, space that’s been largely closed off since a fire in 1980. In contrast to the franchise outlets elsewhere in Union Station, the food hall will offer a curated selection of vendors, said Greg Kirsch, Cushman’s Midwest regional lead for retail.

Amtrak is seizing on a popular trend in urban real estate and on residential and office growth in the West Loop. Cushman said 140,000 rail passengers, mostly Metra riders, pass through Union Station each weekday and the daytime population nearby exceeds 160,000. “And they all eat and drink,” says Cushman’s brochure.

“You know how many people are walking through that space every day, and it kind of doesn’t change,” Kirsch said. “We’re very optimistic that this will be well received.”

The federally backed passenger railroad is helping out with work that includes restoring windows that overlook both the Clinton Street side and the Great Hall. During the heyday of train travel, the space was occupied by a Fred Harvey Lunch Room, then a national chain.

Kirsch said the food hall will be designed so travelers and locals can comfortably linger. He said the plan is to lease the space to a single operator, which would then license spots to perhaps 10 to 15 vendors chosen for their quality and variety. Operations could start by the spring of 2021, he said.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari has said the railroad intends to finish its end of the space improvements by mid-2020.

It’s one piece of Amtrak’s ongoing improvements at Union Station, which have included restoration and repairs of the skylight in the Great Hall. Later steps include renovation of the building’s office space and a one-story addition to the eight floors that surround the Great Hall. The City Council approved plans that allow for two hotels with a combined 400 rooms within the building.

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