Day in the Life

Meet the woman leading the redesign of Walgreens in the Old Main Post Office

The woman leading the team behind the interior redesign of Walgreens that will occupy 200,000 square feet in Chicago’s Old Main Post office said she’s thrilled to work on the “iconic project.”

Walgreens announced in June that the company would move 1,800 employees into the historic 96-year-old Art Deco building — which received landmark designation by the Chicago City Council earlier this year — by fall 2019. Gensler Chicago is leading the exterior and interior design of the building.

“This great building in Chicago is now finally going to go through a development,” said Donna Becco-Schroeder, the principal account manager at design and engineering firm Stantec who is leading the team of four members to redesign the interior work space for Walgreens.

The 2.5-million-square-foot building at 433 W. Van Buren St. sat vacant above the Eisenhower Expressway since 1995, and is in the midst of a gut rehab to the tune of $600 million by New York-based 601w Companies, offset by a $100 million Class L property tax break to cushion the blow.

“I think everybody in Chicago knows about the Post Office, they’ve either driven underneath it or seen it some capacity — I mean, the building has sat empty for 20 years — and now we finally get to see something in it,” she said. “Walgreens is going to be the first [corporate] tenant, so we’re all kind of really energized by the fact that we can now create kind of a new community for that area of Chicago and really focus on the development further.”

Donna Becco-Schroeder, the principal account manager at design and engineering firm Stantec who is leading the team that will redesign the interior workspace for Walgreens at Chicago’s Old Main Post Office, poses for a portrait at Stantec’s Chicago offices, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

For more than 10 years, the Chicago office of Edmonton, Alberta-based Stantec has worked with Walgreens, including architecture, interiors, and engineering development at the company’s headquarters in Deerfield.

Becco-Schroeder didn’t reveal any plans for the design of the office space, beyond that it would be a “tech environment.” Walgreens’ digital and IT operations employees, as well as some Walgreens Boots Alliance global IT personnel, are slated to work out of the Post Office.

The 56-year-old Wrigleyville resident has worked at the firm for three years, and has been in the industry for more than 20. She said the project is “even more important” and “represents something kind of different” than what she’s done in the past.

“This building in and of itself has certain aspects to it that we have to actually be very sensitive to from a landmark standpoint, and that’s going to be part of our process,” she said, adding that the process is “very fluid.”

“We have to understand the requirements with working with the client, and that’s typically done on the site … In our design process we work with many consultancy teams on the design, on the development, on the delivery side, and as well, we’re doing the architecture and the engineering.”

Fifteen years ago, when her two children — now 23 and 29 — were interested in Chicago architecture, Becco-Schroeder was able to organize a tour of the Old Main Post Office through the caretaker at the time.

“Even my family is committed and excited about the change of this building,” she said.

Stantec also designed The Park at Wrigley, which sits adjacent to Wrigley Field, and the six-floor, mixed-use office space, home for the Chicago Cubs’ administration and baseball operations.