Vox populi: Your options for Chicago's Old Main Post Office

August 11, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

Two days ago, I asked you to figure out new uses for the Old Main Post Office at 433 W. Van Buren. It’s been vacant for better than a decade and although it was purchased by a British developer last year, not much in the way of plans have been heard since.

I’m sure there will be some kind of announcement sooner or later. I mean, nobody buys a bicycle and lets it just sit. But until then, we can dream a little. Here’s what you said here on Vocalo and on my Facebook page about what should happen to what was once the world’s largest post office:

*Artist Dayo Laoye (and others) suggested it should become an arts complex. “With the diverse cultures in Chicago, a multi-cultural/ [multi-] purpose art complex will be a good idea. Look at the exposure it’ll create for the hundreds of artists without gallery representation. Part of it could be used as office spaces for ethnic/cultural organizations around the city…tourists/visitors to the city will obviously feel comfortable there–for they are scared of some neighborhoods anyway.”

*Andy Pierce: “A Netflix warehouse.” Then he lost credibility when he later suggested it become a beehive for the “killer bees that never seem to make it here.”

*Arthur Jackson said he’d like to see the building “turned into a massive urban farm and marketplace. A massive vertical farm. Fresh food production and distribution, research and development and education center.” And provides a link to his idea. 


(photo by Lee Bey)

*Reader Garry (like Cher and Madonna, no first last name needed, apparently) said Amtrak should move its operations there then “connect it to Union Station with a people mover. Then Union Station can get more tracks for commuter operations by removing the baggage platforms.”

*Fellow architecture blogger Lynn Becker said architect John Ronan’s idea to convert the building into a mausoleum should be, uhm, resurrected. Ronan’s proposal was one of many compiled into a book published five years ago by the Chicago Central Area Committee. This was about two years before I joined the CCAC as executive director, but I did write an essay for the book and rather liked Ronan’s idea as did Becker. “Despite what chronically timid architecture critics (not Lee) say, this wouldn’t degrade the area, it would reinvigorate it,” Becker says now. “Does the Pantheon degrade Paris? Or Père Lachaise? It would become one of the great social binders among Chicagoans, and attract people from all over the world. Even when they’re alive.”

*Cosmo Costanza [I'm going to guess that's not his real name] wants to do selective interior demolition, creating a lightwell in the core of the building.”The corner offices can go condo/hotel/office as the market recovers. And a CASINO to bring back some of the Indiana boats’ revenue to Illinois.”

So there you have it. Meanwhile, I’ll keep an eye on the building for further developments.