The iconic Art Deco Chicago Union Station Power House is threatened with demolition.
This streamlined architectural masterpiece was designed in 1931 by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, one of Chicago’s greatest architecture firms. Graham, Anderson, Probst and White designed many of Chicago’s most iconic and beloved landmark buildings including Chicago Union Station, Wrigley Building, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Lyric Opera House, Merchandise Mart, and the Old Chicago Main Post Office. The Chicago Union Station Power House should take its honored place among these world-class buildings.
To avoid repair costs, Amtrak wants to spend $13 million dollars to demolish it and replace it with a storage shed! But there is a better option….just sell it!
One of Chicago’s most experienced and successful developers wants to buy and restore the long-vacant Chicago Union Station Power House. Their restoration plans for the historic building include a tech data center and possibly a café along the Chicago River. Its located directly across from the “78”, the largest high-tech R&D development in the Midwest.
If sold, it would be a powerful win-win. Amtrak would save $13 million dollars, avoid maintenance, and earn money from the sale. These funds could better be used for true priorities like the long overdue upgrading of train stations to meet ADA requirements. (Chicago Sun-Times, Amtrak reverses course,1/20/20)
But yet Amtrak is still stubbornly pushing hard for demolition. But there’s a hitch.
In order for Amtrak to use federal tax-payer funds to demolish a historic building, they must be able to claim during the Section 106 hearings that they have exhausted all other options to save this significant National Register-eligible and Chicago Landmark-eligible building.
Perhaps this helps explains why despite frequent and repeated outreach for over two years, Amtrak has stubbornly refused to consider any purchase offers, hold a meeting or even allow a site visit!
Amtrak may be able to ignore a few lonely voices, but they will have no choice but to listen when we all speak together!
We urge Amtrak to respect this important historic building and encourage the City of Chicago to designate the Chicago Union Station Power House as a Chicago Landmark to protect it from harm.
“Whether its future holds a second life as a data center, an addition to the city’s expanding Riverwalk or something even more distinctive, the building should be saved for future generations to enjoy, Ward Miller said, noting that London’s Tate Modern Museum was once the Bankside Power Station.” (Chicago Sun-Times, Iconic South Loop power station should be saved, 10/9/19)
At the February 3rd hearing, Preservation Chicago strongly defended the importance of the historic Union Station Power House and countered many of the claims stated by Amtrak’s development team.
Preservation Chicago applauds 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez for his strong leadership in this effort and for writing letters to the City of Chicago and Amtrak confirming his support for a Chicago Landmark Designation for the Chicago Union Station Power House and a preservation-sensitive outcome for the building.