Wave a Tiny Flag For Chicago’s Limestone Leviathan

The Old Main Post Office

The Old Main Post Office

As you commute in and out of the city on the Eisenhower Expressway, you may feel your heart skip a beat when you notice tiny workmen climbing around scaffolding clinging to the Old Main Post Office like some kind of post-apocalyptic game of Donkey Kong.  But don’t rush home to tell the wife and kids that the decades-dead building has finally come to life again.

Last Wednesday the city issued a permit for facade repairs:

EXTERIOR FAÇADE REPAIRS/RESTORATION TO THE WEST ELEVATION AND PARAPET ON EXISTING OFFICE BUILDING AS PER PLANS.

Two days later, out popped scaffolding permits for the traditional one-year period of work.

It’s a hopeful sign that the much-ballyhooed latest and greatest resurrection plan for the limestone leviathan is finally happening.  After all, none other than Mayor Rahm Emanuel personally stepped in and made the deal happen not five months ago.

But what is it that we’re really seeing here?

Façade restoration.  On the parapet.  In other words, routine maintenance on a 67-year-old neglected and abused building.

After all, very similar permits were issued in March of 2012, September of 2010, and also in April of 2008.

No, what should get you excited is not the stuff you see on the outside of the building, but the stuff you can’t see happening on the inside of the building, and on its roof.  If anything is an indicator that the Post Office may once again become viable, it’s these permits issued on the 12th of last month:

  • REMOVAL OF NON-LOAD BEARING PARTITIONS IN EXITING OFFICE BUILDING ON FLOORS 1-15 & TEMPORARY WATER PLUMBING & FIRE PROTECTION FOR SUPPORT OF THE REMOVAL OF NON-LOAD BEARING PARTITIONS & ABATEMENT WORK AS PER PLANS.
  • REMOVE EXITING ROOFING AT MAIN ROOF, PYLONS AND SELECT PENTHOUSES. REPLACE WITH NEW TEMPORARY BITUMEN ROOF AS PER PLANS.

The first one is the “gut” part of “gut-renovation,” which the building badly needs and is required in order to turn it into the mixed-use Mesopotamia we were promised back when the flowers were just starting to bloom.

Former United States Post Office Main Station - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2010 - 001a

The roof.  The roof.  The roof is quite dire.

The second part is interesting because the new development team has big plans for the roof of the building, including gardens, cafes, and maybe some kind of amateur sports facilities.  New roofing is what the building’s needed for years, and this temporary roof is likely buttoning things up until those facilities can be built.

Drawing of the rooftop amenities proposed for the Old Chicago Post Office renovation (Courtesy of Gensler)

Drawing of the rooftop amenities proposed for the Old Chicago Post Office renovation (Courtesy of Gensler)

As a point of interest, in 2015 the previous owner petitioned to add three stories to the top of the building, but the city told him that he could only have two because three would alter the look so much that it might jeopardize its National Register of Historic Places listing.

Drawing of the rooftop amenities proposed for the Old Chicago Post Office renovation (Courtesy of Gensler)

Drawing of the rooftop amenities proposed for the Old Chicago Post Office renovation (Courtesy of Gensler)

from Chicago Architecture http://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2016/10/10/wave-a-tiny-flag-for-chicagos-limestone-leviathan/

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