For a while now, the Metropolitan Planning Council has devoted its efforts to improving Union Station — and for good reason: The 85-year-old complex is the last of the city's grand old rail stations and the third-busiest passenger station in the country.
And what a fine building it is, with its elegant limestone exterior and that romantic passenger hall. And what you can't see is pretty good too, as it turns out. The MPC earlier this year toured the building and photographed what's behind the train station's "official access only" doors and locked-out upper floors. The organization shared pictures of the tour in a feature
on its website this week. The images show the old station has some of downtown's most remarkable hidden spaces.
For instance, there is the station's former Women's Lounge— closed off from the main hall for years— in the photo above. Look at the columns, the coffered ceiling and the murals. The space is so large, the fair-sized crowd barely makes a dent in it.
Here's a vintage wash-up area in one of Union Station's closed upper floors:
And the view from the roof:
Reuse of these spaces is critical to Union Station's future. As downtown development spreads westward, the station is a hub rather than facility on the edge of the Loop, which opens a ton of possibilties for those now-hidden offices, lounges and rooms. Having those spaces activated with businesses, restaurants, etc., would be good for the building and for the West Loop.