With Or Without Amazon, Old Post Office Site Is Ready For Its Comeback

The former old main post office, among Chicago’s most long-awaited and significant downtown redevelopment projects, doesn’t need Amazon’s stamp of approval.

But getting it would sure be nice.

While undergoing a $600 million rehab, the massive art deco complex and adjacent area is expected to be on the list of sites Chicago’s City Hall presents to Amazon, which is scouring the nation in search of a home for its second headquarters.

Yet with or without Amazon, the old post office’s rebirth promises to be one of the most economically vital and far-reaching development projects to emerge from the city’s current downtown building boom.

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Now owned by New York-based 601W Cos., the post office is moving in the right direction.

Over the last year, the building has been cleared of 23 million pounds of debris; the main lobby and ceiling have been restored to original art deco glory; a large food market and other amenities are coming.

The limestone facade has been cleaned, and new windows allow more natural light into the building’s core.

The post office site meets a couple of Amazon’s top requirements.

It’s in a centralized location with close proximity to train and other mass transit options. What’s more, with 2.5 million square feet and the possibility to build on adjacent property, the post office can immediately provide the wide, open work spaces that Amazon craves.

Still, even this building behemoth may not satisfy the Seattle-based e-commerce player’s space needs — housing 50,000 employees over a 10- to 15-year span.

Not holding their breath for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ call, the development’s backers are scoping out other tenant prospects.

The list includes: banks, call centers, software developers, technology firms, insurance companies and corporations seeking to band together multiple area offices into one location.

Also on the radar: corporate headquarters.

Any company that opts to move into the post office development should have a little pioneering spirit.

The sheer size and scope of the project means there will be construction underway on-site after a major tenant moves in.

“It’s the ultimate urban loft experience,” the planning council’s Ellis says.

Nonetheless, the post office is the largest redevelopment in the country and promises to become a money generator for the surrounding community.

Provided the economy chugs along, look for those areas immediately north and south of the post office to attract greater investments for hotels, office towers, residential buildings and other consumer businesses, real estate experts contend.

Such expansion will assuredly bring along unique concerns, difficulties and churn.

But the post office has been dark for over 20 long years and has been a psychic and financial scar on the city.

This ambitious plan is erasing one of Chicago’s biggest eyesores while pumping new life into an important and well-traveled location.

A revitalized post office development is already a victory, even if Amazon goes elsewhere.

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Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/reed/ct-biz-old-post-office-comeback-robert-reed-1005-story.html

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