Big Plans for this Chicago Landmark

July 29, 2011

You could call this a plan for a Chicago real estate fantasyland.

A British developer wants to turn Chicago’s former Main Post Office Building near Congress Parkway and the area around it into a massive complex that would include housing, retail shops, hotels, green space and the tallest skyscraper in North America.

Once the world's largest post office, this site could house the tallest skyscraper in the country.

The 3-million-square-foot building, at 433 W. Van Buren St., was once the world’s largest post office. Built in 1932, the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has sat vacant since 1995. There have been several plans for the area over the years, including a casino and a water park, but none have developed.

British developer Bill Davies and his company, International Property Developers, bought the property in 2009 for $24.8 million.

Davies envisions a 16 million-square-foot “urban mecca” that would feature five residential, office and hotel towers including a 2,000-foot skyscraper that would upstage the 1,451-foot Willis Tower as Chicago’s tallest building.

Here’s the 20-acre, $3.5-billion plan:


Davies plan

*3.8 million square feet of residential space

*4.1 million square feet of hotels

*6.2 million square feet of retail and entertainment space

*2 million square feet of offices

*Parking for 12,000 cars

Davies wants to build the community in three phases over the next 10 years.

*First stage: Convert the Post Office into retail shops and entertainment and construct a 40-story hotel.

*Second stage: On sites adjacent to the post office, build the 120-story skyscraper, which would be used for residential, office, retail and hotel space.

*Third stage: Construct two 60-story residential towers with retail space and a parking lot along the river.

Each stage would take about three years to complete.

This community would be built on the current Holiday Inn site, an empty lot on West Harrison between the Chicago River and South Wells, and a site next to the post office known as the “Sugar House.”

Davies is in negotiations to buy all those properties.

The plan for the Old Post Office requires City Council and Plan Commission approval and was submitted to the city last week. If approved, Davies and his company can start their project within 90 days.

But many doubt Davies’ vision will ever become reality, citing the decline in the commercial Chicago real estate industry this economy has provided and using the 2,000-foot Chicago Spire project as one of many failed examples.

It’s still good to dream big, though.

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This would be a fabulous project and give new life to that huge empty building sitting in the middle of downtown Chicago. I hope it becomes a reality.

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