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Riverside Wants To Add Seven Stories To Chicago's Union Station In First Phase Of Redevelopment

Riverside Investment and Development and Convexity Properties unveiled its first phase plans for the $1B redevelopment of Chicago's Union Station at a public meeting Monday night that left attendees questioning the impact of the redevelopment on their quality of life and an already congested area of downtown.

The designs from SCB, meanwhile, were not well-received by preservationists in the audience.

A rendering of Riverside Investment and Development's planned seven-story addition it wants to build atop Union Station's head house.
A rendering of Riverside Investment and Development's planned seven-story addition atop Union Station's head house.

Riverside wants to build a seven-story glass and steel addition that would raise Union Station's height from 125 feet to 245 feet and allow Riverside and Convexity to build 404 residential units. Union Station's existing upper floors would be repositioned as a 330-room hotel.

Other plans include a food hall inside the building, restoring Union Station's Burlington Room, ground-floor retail along the building's exterior, replacing the majority of Union Station's windows and restoring the building to the bronze color scheme originally envisioned by Union Station's architects, Graham Anderson Probst & White, and a new entrance on Clinton Street, between Adams and Jackson.

The hotel would be accessible via the Adams Street entrance, while the apartments would be accessible via Adams and Jackson. The addition would bring Union Station's total footprint to 1.1M SF. Riverside is also planning a 1.2M SF office tower south of Adams, on the site of a 1,700-car parking lot. The developer will tear down half of the parking structure, leaving 800 spots in place.

A rendering showing how Riverside Investment and Development's planned seven-story addition to Union Station will affect the light court.
A rendering showing how Riverside Investment and Development's planned seven-story addition to Union Station will affect the light court.

The addition's design is intended to allow sunlight to pass through Union Station's skylight, which is being restored along with the Great Hall. But residents expressed concerns about how the addition would block daylight from entering the hall. Preservationists like Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller asked if the existing structure could bear the weight of the planned addition.

The initial designs were not well-received by residents. Many compared crowning the concrete and stone building with a glass and steel structure to the $660M renovation of Soldier Field. That project led to the stadium losing its landmark status.

The biggest concerns centered on how the residential and hospitality components would add congestion. Several residents said CTA already uses the bus areas along Canal as a stall point. Adams Street is congested for most of the workday. There is a lack of bicycle infrastructure around the station and pedestrians said crossing the street is taking their lives in their hands.

Kimley-Horn & Associates Senior Transportation Engineer Peter Lemmon told the audience a traffic study of the area is still being conducted. Initial plans call for three checkpoints around Union Station to keep buses and taxis from sitting around, and maintain the flow of traffic.

Riverside CEO John O'Donnell said the redevelopment would bring in an estimated $3.5M in hotel taxes, $21M in real estate taxes annually and up to $700M over a 20-year period. If Riverside receives approval from the city, the firm expects to start construction in spring 2019.