USA DIARY————————————————————– Sudhir Jain
On 22nd July 2011, I read a news in all the Chicago newspapers that historical Old Chicago Main Post Office building is going to dismantle and new 14 story complex will be built on the site. It was interesting news because only three days before I had taken an Architectural Ferry Tour of Chicago city and during this ferry tour our guide was describing details of all the historical and famous buildings on route. He had shown us this Old Main Post Office building and told that although the Main Post office had been shifted from this building in the year 1997, but due to strong protest on the citizens of Chicago, this building was not dismantled. Just after three days I was reading that the owner of this building unveiled a grandiose plan for redeveloping this long-vacant property and the area around it.
The Old Chicago Main Post Office is a nine-story-tall building built in the year 1921, this post office building was once the world\’s largest post office. The original structure was a brick-sided mail terminal building and major expansion in the year 1932 added a total of nine floors for more than 60 acres of floorspace. Its footprint, as initially designed, would have blocked the proposed Congress Parkway extension. As a compromise, a hole for the Parkway was reserved in the base of the Post Office and utilized twenty years later. In the year1966 the Main Chicago Post Office came to a virtual halt when a logjam of 10 million pieces of mail clogged the system for almost one whole week. With Chicago rated worst in postal deliveries, a new Main Post Office was proposed for right across Harrison Street. In 1997, the old building was vacated in favour of the new, modernized facility. As per the February 2006 report by the US General Accounting Office, it costed the government two million Dollar per year to maintain this retired building. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the year 2001. This building had been the subject of several redevelopment plans, none of which have succeeded.
In the year 2009, the postal service placed the post office on the auction block. An English real estate developer Bill Davies finally acquired this building on October 21, 2009, paying about 17 million Dollar.After acquiring the post office property from the Postal Service, Bill Davies unveiled his plan for the Post Office on 21st July 2011. The proposal, which involved three other properties besides the 14-story Post Office, was broken down into three-phases pending the required $3.5 billion in funding:
Phase 1: Converting the Post Office into a retail complex who\’s main entrance would be through the Beaux Arts-inspired lobby along Van Buren street, the remaining interior would become a parking garage, and the addition of a 40-story hotel on the east side of the building. Approximate cost is 450 million Dollar.Phase 2: Building an addition 60-story hotel west of the Post Office and a 120-story, 2000 ft. office, hotel, and residential tower that would be the tallest in North America. Approximate cost is 2 billion Dollar.
Phase 3: Two residential towers built on the east side of the Chicago River diagonally southeast from the proposed 120-story skyscraper plus a 12,000 space parking garage. Approximate cost is 1 billion Dollar.The whole $3.5 billion dollar plan has been submitted to the Chicago City Council and the Planning Commission for approval the same day it was released to the public. Only funding for Phase 1 has been secured as of July 21st, 2011.