'All the grandeur of a Holiday Inn': Blair Kamin on the latest Chicago Union Station expansion plans
Daniel Burnham’s ghost and his much-quoted exhortation to “make no little plans” haunt the just-released, utterly underwhelming design for a vertical expansion of Chicago’s Union Station.
To put things in Burnham-speak, these plans are little — very little.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of putting a 330-room hotel in the upper floors of the station’s historic main building, especially if you’re a railroad buff in search of an atmospheric spot to stay overnight. The trouble is a planned apartment addition that would plunk a squat modernist box atop the existing structure’s neo-classical pedestal. They go together as well as Rauner and Pritzker, the City Council and ethics reform.
The seven-story addition and its 404 rental apartments would bring to the forlorn but grand train station all the grandeur of a Holiday Inn.
The plans, unveiled Monday night at a public meeting hosted by downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), were designed by Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz for Riverside Investment & Development. Amtrak picked the Chicago developer last year to carry out a $1 billion-plus redevelopment of the station and property around it. Riverside’s initial plans, from Chicago architects Goettsch Partners, offered few bold ideas. The new ones aren’t much better, though they would make it easier for the public to move through the chronically claustrophobic station.