Chicago Union Station ‘abomination’ scrapped

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One view of the former plan to redevelop Chicago Union Station — now scrapped due to negative public input.
Riverside Investment & Development via Amtrak
CHICAGO — A plan to remake historic Chicago Union Station by topping it off with a modern glass-and-steel box that some critics described as “an abomination” has been scrapped, according to a Chicago alderman.

The seven-story vertical addition containing apartments and a hotel "was deemed unacceptable by the community and the Alderman due to architectural and traffic concerns," according to an announcement from the office of Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd Ward encompasses the station.

"As a result, the development team decided to completely revise their vision for the project,” the announcement stated.

The plan for the $1 billion project was unveiled in June at a meeting in Union Station’s Burlington Room by John O’Donnell, the CEO of Riverside Investment & Development.

Amtrak, which owns Union Station, selected Chicago-based Riverside and Convexity Properties in May 2017 to redevelop the station and surrounding property.

Reilly announced that Riverside and Convexity would present revised plans for Union Station at a Sept. 11 meeting, and that the public could have a “direct dialogue with the development team.”

Amtrak would not comment on the project Friday. Spokesman Marc Magliari referred Trains News Wire to Reilly’s office, Riverside and a public relations firm for comment on the scrapping of the plans.

Amtrak would “not offer a characterization” on Riverside’s plan, Magliari said.

But critics of the proposal outnumbered the fans by an overwhelming margin. As reported by News Wire, the modern addition atop the neoclassical head house has been lambasted in newspaper pages, on blogs, and on social media.

Union Station, with its multi-columned exterior, was completed in 1925. It was designed by Daniel Burnham and successor firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

The Riverside plan called for the proposed glass structure to contain 404 apartments. Below, in the existing building, 330 hotel rooms would be built.

Architecture critics said the two designs were incongruous. Writing in The Architect’s Newspaper, Elizabeth Blasius described the addition as “a self-inked address stamper.”

Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, said the addition has “none of the grandeur of Union Station (but) all the grandeur of a Holiday Inn.”

On the Facebook page Chicago Railroad Historians, the oft-repeated comment was “an abomination.”

One commenter said it was “Putting a streamlined dome on a heavyweight Pullman.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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