The Real Deal Chicago

Riverside, Convexity plan mixed-use addition atop Union Station

The landmark rail hub would be redeveloped to include a 330-key hotel and 404 apartments
By Joe Ward | June 26, 2018 08:00AM

John O’Donnell and a rendering of Union Station (Credit: Riverside Investment and Development)

Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties unveiled sweeping plans to redevelop Union Station, including a new hotel and apartment building complex, along with an office tower just south of the landmark building.

A seven-story addition addition to the station calls for a four-sided structure with an open interior that would not close in the skylight, which is protected under the city’s landmark ordinance.

The 1.1 million-square-foot combined structure would house a 330-key hotel plus 404 apartments and would include a redevelopment of the existing building to include street-level retail and other improvements, developers said.

“We want to adapt and reuse an underutilized building,” Riverside CEO John O’Donnell said Monday at a community meeting, when the latest plans were released. “That’s our goal here, to have something that will be used 12 months a year by various groups.”

Amtrak, which owns Union Station, selected Riverside last year to lead the redevelopment of the historic station, choosing the firm over Golub & Co., Sterling Bay and The John Buck Company, according to Curbed.

Initial designs released when Riverside was selected showed two 12-story residential towers rising on the north and south ends of the station. Developers at Monday’s meeting did not say why that plan was scrapped.

Instead, the team chose a design that plays on Union Station’s verticality and symmetry while distinguishing itself with modern flourishes. The addition is “lighter” than the existing station so as not to diminish the landmark building, O’Donnell said.

The station’s designation as a Chicago landmark means any addition has to be compatible design-wise but must differentiate from the existing structure at 225 South Canal Street, said Steve Hubbard of Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the Chicago-based architectural firm that designed the proposal.

“We clearly feel we do a better service to the building by not replicating it,” Hubbard said.

Plans for Union Station, built in 1925, also include the construction of an office skyscraper on the site of a parking lot just south of the station, a reconfiguring of pedestrian and vehicle traffic near the station and improvements to pedestrian flow inside the station, developers said. Plans for the skyscraper, which would hold 1.5 million square feet of office space, will be unveiled to the public at a later date, developers said.

Work on the Union Station redevelopment could begin as early as the spring and take more than a year. Work on the office tower would not begin until Fall 2019.

This isn’t the first lofty redevelopment proposal for Union Station: A $250 million project announced in 2007 would have added an 18-story tower to the station, according to Crain’s, but the idea stalled amid the recession.

Now Chicago is experiencing a development boom, and Riverside and Convexity have been active participants.

Early last year, Riverside delivered the 54-story office building at 150 North Riverside Plaza, and the firm has the green light to build an 800-foot-tall office tower at 110 North Wacker Drive in partnership with Howard Hughes Corp.

Convexity has renovated a number of historic buildings, including Three Arts Building in the Gold Coast and Hotel Robey, which occupies a landmark building in Wicker Park.

Union Station is undergoing a $22 million renovation that will upgrade the 18,000-square-foot skylight and restore the Great Hall’s plaster and interior ornamentation.

Nearby, work has started on the long-delayed Toyoko Inn at 320 South Clinton Street, but Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) has threatened to use a zoning move to block the 24-story, 625-key hotel.