CUS Addition Unveiled by Developer

Chicago Union Station will get a quite different look if Amtrak and a developer follow through on plans to build an addition atop the station that will house apartments, retail space and a hotel.

The seven-story addition of steel and glass would be built on top of the existing head house.

It is the second time that a developer has proposed an addition to Union Station, the first having come in 2002 and failed to materialize.

The latest plan, which is expected to cost $1 billion, seeks to make Union Station a seven-day-a-week, year-round “destination.”

Already the proposed addition, which was designed by Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, has drawn the ire of some who say it is at odds with the original appearance of the station.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin described the addition as “utterly underwhelming” and added that the exterior of the addition is “a skeletal metal and glass grid [that] is at odds with the station’s carefully composed classical aesthetic.”

Kamin said the addition is “one era of architecture [that] had been piled, willy-nilly, atop another.”

Amtrak owns Union Station and hired Riverside Investment in May 2017 to create a plan for further commercial development of the depot.

As part of the construction of the addition, natural light would still be allowed to illuminate the Great Hall because the skylight would be retained.

Completed in 1925, Union Station served the Pennsylvania; Alton Road (later Gulf, Mobile & Ohio); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific railroads.

The station was designed by Daniel Burnham and successor firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

The addition would not affect operations of Amtrak and Metra commuter trains in the Concourse building located across the street from the Head House.

The redevelopment of Union Station must be approved by the Chicago City Council and Amtrak’s board of directors.

Developers are optimistic that construction can begin in spring 2019.

If built, the addition would be similar to one proposed in 2002 by Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange that called for a 400-foot tower atops the station.

Kamin noted that Burnham envisioned Union Station as a gateway to Chicago’s west loop neighborhood and planned for an office building to be built atop the station. The foundations for that structure were laid, but it was never built.

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