City to examine old post office rehab plan
July 4, 2013
Renovation plans call for a glass exterior and one or two towers to be added to the old post office.

Vacant since 1996, Chicago’s old central post office, 433 W. Van Buren St., finally may have a successful development plan. A team consisting of Antunovich Associates and International Property Developers of North America, the building’s owners, plan to present their plan for the site to the City’s Planning Commission on Thursday, July 18.

If the Planning Commission, City Zoning Commission, and City Council approve the plan, construction and renovation would start almost immediately.

“I think it will be approved,” said Alderman Daniel Solis of the 25th Ward, where the building is located.

Project leaders would implement the plan in multiple phases, starting with restoring and renovating the building to allow for residential and commercial space, which will take 18 to 36 months. Then workers would build retail, shops, and condos on the new site, paving the way for further development.

The phased-in approach makes the plan more palatable to City officials than previous ideas, according to Antunovich Associates.

“The other plans had very large hopes with lots of complicated buildings,” explained Joseph Antunovich, the firm’s president. “Our plan is more modest, and it’s also ‘phaseable.’ It doesn’t all have to be bit off at one time, which makes it practical. The plan also has been getting a lot of support from a lot of people.”

If approved, the plan will add 800,000 square feet of retail space, 2,900 residential units, 525,000 square feet of office space, 320 hotel rooms, and 5,700 parking spaces to the community. The renovation phase includes turning the old Holiday Inn nearby into a parking structure. The plan proposes even loftier goals for future consideration: a 1,000-foot tower, followed by a 1,700-foot tower. In transforming the long unused property into the base of one of the tallest buildings in the city, these structures would create 3,500 more residential units, 1.5 million more square feet of office space, and 920 more hotel rooms.

“To have this national landmark building sitting empty at the gateway of one of the prominent entries to the city is a crime,” Antunovich said. The building straddles the Eisenhower Expressway where that thoroughfare turns into Congress Parkway. “Having this beautiful building fall upon the hard times it’s fallen upon is something that hurts. To have this come back, to have this be a fabulous gateway, would be wonderful for the city,” Antunovich added.

If approvals do come through and financing does line up, officials project mid-2015 as the earliest the site would be open for business.

An Antunovich Associates spokesperson said there is not a detailed plan yet for how it will handle keeping disruptions caused by construction to a minimum, but also said the company is “committed to ensure that any construction would have as minimal an impact as possible on the surrounding traffic circulation, parking, and transit facilities.”

While the original date to present to the planning commission was June 20, there was a delay in presenting due to the “scope and extent of the site,” according to Antunovich Associates. However the firm indicated that the project is “progressing wonderfully.”

For information, call Antunovich Associates at (312) 266-1126 or International Property Developers at (312) 841-2194.

— Dan Kolen