Amtrak announces big plans for Chicago Union Station

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An artist's rendering of what a redeveloped Chicago Union Station might look like from above.
Amtrak website
CHICAGO — Amtrak on Thursday named the prime developer in charge of the proposed redevelopment of Chicago’s Union Station and neighboring properties, including plans to construct a pair of high-rise towers above the iconic main building.

The initial conceptual design, announced by Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calls for a three-phase project expected to take six years. Estimates put the total cost at more than $1 billion, although Amtrak says it is still negotiating the contract and there is no guarantee the project will come to fruition.

"This building was envisioned by Daniel Burnham in the 1909 Plan for Chicago as the city's primary rail station. It is in that spirit, we have big plans for both this Headhouse building and nearby properties owned by Amtrak," Moorman said in a statement, alluding to Burnham’s aphorism, “Make no little plans.”

The city of Chicago and Amtrak, along with other transit agencies, completed a Master Plan for the redevelopment of Union Station and the surrounding area in 2012. Last year, a transit center where Metra passengers transfer to CTA buses was opened across the street from Union Station.

Amtrak said the commercial aspects of the project do not require any federal, state, or local funding, and are subject to further revision and consideration by the city’s Plan and Landmarks Commissions, Zoning Committee and City Council.

The city, Amtrak and transit agencies, however, are pursuing public funding for transportation improvements in connection with the Master Plan. In January, the city and the agencies announced that they would work with the U.S. Department of Transportation under an Emerging Projects Agreement with the ultimate goal of seeking as much as $1 billion for transportation improvements in the Master Plan.

Key details announced Thursday include improved street entrances and improved pedestrian traffic flow into and out of the station, “pedestrian-friendly” landscaping and open spaces, Amtrak officials say.

The Chicago firm Riverside Investment & Development Co. will be the leader, with partner Convexity Properties. Riverside was selected from a field of four finalists named last year.

According to Amtrak, Phase One will focus on improvements to the Headhouse and Concourse, which is across the street but connected by a tunnel. A rendering indicates that the existing Concourse, where most passengers enter and exit, will remain.

These improvements will include: 110,000 square feet of new and reconfigured retail space with a new food hall and street level retail. Also planned in this phase is renovation of the Headhouse and famous Great Hall; 100,000 square feet of office space and new proposed hotel above the Great Hall; and two new 12-story residential towers above the Headhouse.

Phase Two includes construction of two new 750,000-square-foot office towers with retail and 800 parking spaces on a site currently occupied by a parking garage.

Phase Three includes construction of a 500,000-square-foot retail and residential tower above active rail lines used by Amtrak and Metra, the city’s commuter rail agency.

"We have initiated real estate developments such as this to create revenue streams to invest in our core business, to improve facilities, to provide amenities to all users of the station — and to attract new ones,” Moorman says.

The agreement will generate thousands of jobs and “ensure a more vibrant future for Union Station and the entire city of Chicago," Emanuel said in a statement

"The thorough planning process with Amtrak and the many partners involved in this historic endeavor will ensure this plan generates the greatest economic impact and benefit the entire region and nation," the mayor added.

Amtrak’s board of directors this week approved the designation of a master development team led by Riverside. This designation is based on a staff recommendation and follows a “rigorous technical and financial review,” assisted by KPMG, AECOM, and Savills Studley, according to Amtrak.

The Amtrak board also approved finalizing financial negotiations with this developer by the end of the year, the agency said.

Amtrak said the master development process in Chicago is part of a larger corporate program to leverage the substantial Amtrak asset portfolio and also includes stations in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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