Downtown Chicago to benefit from Union Station upgrade

Chicago's historic Union Station is looking better than ever after the completion of a $25 million infrastructure improvement project funded by station owner Amtrak. The renovation was completed by Mortenson Construction and managed by Jones Lang LaSalle, and it included upgrading or replacing the building’s electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, simultaneously installing fire safety equipment such as sprinklers and alarms in an effort to meet city regulations and prepare the upper floors for sale.

All new air conditioning in the Great Hall is a new addition, providing a safe haven for Chicago commuters looking to escape the heat. It has increased the station's popularity as a venue for summer events, setting facility records with nine events in May and four weddings scheduled for June. People around the world recognize Union Station’s Great Hall from movies such as “The Untouchables,” “Man of Steel” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”  Operating as a venue for events, the Great Hall is predicted to bring in roughly $1 to $2 million a year in added revenue.

The renovations also allow the station's previously “unrentable space” to be put back on the market and back to use. Due to safety issues that came from the outdated building and a previously “inadequate ventilation system,” the Headhouse office space and approximately 60,000 square feet of surrounding retail space have gone empty and unused. The building renovations turn this space into “prime real estate,” said Ray Lang, president of the Chicago Union Station Co. and Amtrak's chief of state government relations.

Greg Werner, vice president and head of Mortenson’s Chicago office, said, “Restoring historic buildings is one of the most sustainable ways to build. The true success of an historic renovation is when visitors can’t tell that we were ever in the building - except that it looks and operates better.”

Union Station was built 87 years ago and remains a treasured and recognizable historic building today, located right at the border of the Loop and welcoming people from all areas of surrounding Chicago to the bustling center of the city. The Great Hall features a vaulted skylight stretching across 110-foot walls, with oversized wooden benches and statuary, with connecting lobbies and balconies. The renovations could make living in the Union Station area an increasingly attractive option for those looking for real estate in Chicago.