Union Station’s $1B vision: residential towers atop historic terminal
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman announced Thursday that Riverside Investment & Development will lead in the construction of a $1 billion project to rehab Union Station and redevelop some of the area around it.
Emanuel said Union Station and the surrounding area is vital to Chicago’s economy.
“We’ve had a great partnership [with Amtrak] because if you’re going to have a 21st century economy, it needs to run on a 21st century infrastructure,” said Emanuel. “And that’s what we’ve been working on for the last four years to get to this point.”
The project, to be completed in three phases over the six years, is expected to break ground on its first phase by mid-2018.
Riverside CEO John O’Donnell said the first phase will be privately funded, and that Riverside and and Convexity Properties have enough equity committed to cover the cost.
O’Donnell did not say how the $1 billion total cost will divided among the three phases.
Renderings released by the city show new office towers on land near the station, as well as two residential towers on top of Union Station, which filters through more than 40 million passengers a year and is the third busiest train station in the United States. Although O’Donnell said the conceptual plan will change over the next year, the renovations definitely will include better street entrances, making it easier for pedestrians to get in and out of the station, especially at rush hour.
The first phase will include revamping and expanding retail space and creating a new food hall. Residential towers — as well as a proposed hotel, and renovations to the Great Hall — are also expected to be built in the first phase.
In the second phase, two office towers would be built on property next to the station that currently is the site of the Union Station parking garage. The towers also would have ground-floor retail space.
The third phase would add a retail and residential tower at Jackson and Canal streets.
Emanuel stressed the importance of investing in the city’s transportation, which he said he’s already began to do with the modernization of Midway Airport and the O’Hare runway project. The mayor also hinted at discussions about “long-term development of new terminals” at O’Hare.
“Union Station fits in that transportation investment,” said Emanuel. “Union Station is a nexus of transportation and with this investment you would unlock that other economic opportunities.”
Riverside estimates about 7,500 construction jobs will be created by this project. The number of permanent jobs is estimated at 7,000 to 8,000.
Last July, the planning and engineering firm Arup was chosen to design 13 “near-term” improvements identified in the city’s master plan for Union Station aimed at boosting passenger capacity, improving safety and increasing mobility in and around the station.
They included wider platforms, expanded concourses and entrances, pedestrian passageways, and new ventilation systems. The design work would be jointly funded by Amtrak, the city, Metra and the RTA.
Contributing: Fran Spielman