Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined the City of Chicago’s partners in the redevelopment of Chicago’s historic Union Station to highlight the next phase of work in the project, the addition of a new entrance on Clinton Street that will open the west side of the Amtrak-owned station’s Headhouse for development as a food court and retail space. This comes as City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposed office tower that will be built by Riverside Development on Amtrak land south of the station.
“The modernization of historic Union Station and redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood will generate thousands of jobs and ensure a more vibrant future for the entire City of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By working with our partners, we are leveraging talent and resources at our disposal to ensure the station and the West Loop continue to serve as an economic engine for the City of Chicago in the 21st Century.”
On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to vote on the Planned Development proposal which will activate the historic station house after decades of attempts. Part of the plan includes 1.5 million square foot, 50-story office tower and a 1.5 acre public park on land now occupied by an Amtrak-owned parking garage. The project is estimated to be worth $900 million and is expected to create 5,100 construction jobs and 480 permanent jobs. Construction is anticipated to begin the fourth quarter of 2019 and is expected to last three years. The project includes the renovation of floors 4-8 of the Head House and a 9th-story addition for two hotels comprised of 400 keys combined.
The plan represents a major step forward toward the goal of realizing the full value of Amtrak’s real estate holdings in Chicago. The redevelopment of under-utilized property in the neighborhood was a key proposal in the City-led Chicago Union Station Master Plan that was released in 2012 through a partnership that included the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Amtrak, Metra, the RTA, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
“The project represents a great opportunity to preserve and revitalize the City’s busiest train station while also accommodating ongoing demand for commercial office space in the West Loop,” said David L. Reifman, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).
Subject to City Council approval of the new tower, Amtrak will invest some of the proceeds from the real estate transaction to activate a portion of the undeveloped spaces around the historic Great Hall for restaurants and other services. This will include the creation of a transformational new entrance to the Headhouse from Clinton Street on the west side of the station that will greatly improve ADA access and allow the station to meet the needs of the fast-growing business and residential areas in the West Loop.
The plan to create the new entrance from Clinton Street calls for interior and exterior renovations to a section of the station that has been closed off since a fire in 1980. This area of the station was formerly occupied by the Red Lion Fred Harvey Lunch Room.
“Our next steps will be to work with the development community and the City to activate the upper floors of the Headhouse Building to unlock the value of that asset for the benefit of the neighborhood and the Amtrak network,” said Ray Lang, Senior Director of Amtrak. “Amtrak has also invited Metra, the City of Chicago and others to join in a partnership seeking federal grants and other funds to fully reconfigure portions of the station's Concourse and other areas heavily used by Metra customers.”
Amtrak is currently in the process of completing the renovation of the skylight of the Great Hall.
As a part of the Planned Development approval, Alderman Reilly pushed for Riverside to agree to fund and implement a variety of initiatives to improve traffic flow on the streets around Union Station. This includes posting Traffic Control Aides and Parking Enforcement Aides during the AM and PM peak hours, Monday through Friday to help traffic operations around Union Station and allow for better enforcement of both curbside regulations and parking restrictions. The Developer will also modernize CDOT traffic signals at 14 nearby intersections, improve passenger vehicle, taxi, and TNP pick-up and drop-off zones surrounding the station’s Headhouse, and improve and expand nearby CTA and commuter shuttle bus stops.
“In collaboration with our partners Amtrak, Metra, the RTA, the Illinois Department of Transportation and other stakeholders, we’ve achieved great progress on our plans to improve the experience for everyone who uses Union Station,” said CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld.
In 2016, CDOT completed work on the Union Station Transit Center, a new off-street CTA bus boarding center just south of Union Station that provides weather protection for transit riders and an underground connection to the Amtrak train station that serves 120,000 Amtrak and Metra passengers each week day.