After 20 years of sitting as an empty gateway to the city, the Old Chicago Post Office has been revived to its original magnificence through the complete renovation of the three city-block wide structure. The renovation of the building brings a rebirth to the southwest corner of the city, where many hope the redevelopment will push forward other proposed developments in the area.
The Old Post Office is made up of three buildings built in stages from 1921 to 1932. The facility was a prominent mail-sorting location, considered the “mail-sorting capital of the United States,” as the department stores Montgomery Ward and Sears were huge markets for mail-orders, accounting for “millions of pieces of mail every week.” These mail-order based companies prompted the original expansions of the building to include two more buildings. The post office closed in 1996, leading to the long vacancy and degradation of the building until the development firm 601W took over the renovation effort.
The Old Post Office, with its large, robust structure and classic, magnificent architecture both inside and out, represents a critical landmark to the city of Chicago. The building holds memories of the city and tells part of the story of how Chicago has flourished and grown to what it is. It is a critical landmark in a critical location; a building that showcases the entrance to the southwestern part of the city and acts quite literally as a gateway to downtown Chicago “as it spans Ida B. Wells Drive, and traffic to and from the Eisenhower Expressway flows right through the massive building.”
The area near Union Station is relatively quiet, but the growth of the surrounding area to come with the renovation of the building is hopeful to be great. The renovation has brought important companies to the area and with that, a vast number of employees. With the building opening on November 1st, 2019, 14,000 employees had already started commuting to and working at the building, this being without the lease space being completely filled. Larger companies such as Kroger, Uber, Walgreens and Pepsi have all moved into space in the building.
The renovation of the Old Chicago Post Office was one that represented the growth of the city with the modern technology and corporate advances that have taken place, as well as the historic embodiment of how the city has evolved.