The story of the Old Chicago Post Office is the tale of how an iconic piece of architecture is getting a second chance at life.
Constructed in 1921, the 13-story Art Deco structure is massive in scale, occupying two city blocks and containing more than 2.5 million square feet (over 57 acres) of floor area. Despite its size, stature, and recognition on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the Old Chicago Post Office fell victim to the modernization of the postal delivery system and was closed when a new more efficient facility was completed nearby. During most of the 20th Century, every piece of mail coming in or out of the Chicago region passed through this building; by the mid-1990’s, it was left vacant with no plans for its reuse.
After its closure, several redevelopment efforts were proposed, but it was not until New York-based developer, 601 West Companies purchased the building in 2016, that plans for its second coming were realized. The task at hand was substantial. How can a massive former industrial warehouse be transformed into a modern work environment that would help meet the growing office needs in the downtown area?
Hoerr Schaudt is thrilled to have The Meadow Atop The Old Chicago Post Office recognized by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities with an Award of Excellence in the Intensive Commercial / Industrial / Institutional category
Old Chicago Post Office is located in a transitioning part of the City, the surrounding area lacked the amenities needed to support the influx of nearly 16,000 tenants who would eventually occupy the property. This not only meant providing offerings such as restaurants, fitness centres, and other basic services but open space as well. As part of the initial phase of construction, the developers knew it would be necessary to provide the Post Office community with an attractive and convenient outdoor space where one could get outside, enjoy contact with nature, have a casual meeting with coworkers or get some exercise. Leveraging the building’s vast roof area (nearly six acres) as an asset, The Meadow at the Old Chicago Post Office would become the nation’s largest private rooftop garden offering a wide variety of active and passive amenities enabling the rooftop to become a park unto itself.
Not only providing benefits to the building’s occupants but the Meadow was also designed with sustainability in mind. The richly planted meadows serve as a giant sponge absorbing and filtering more than a quarter-million gallons of stormwater annually from entering the City’s strained storm sewer system.
The Hoerr Schaudt team collaborated with Columbia Green Technologies, to successfully achieve The Meadow’s vibrant landscape of diverse plants. The design team was able to move forward with their unique plant mix made up of large perennials and grasses within the 6-inch depth ultra-lightweight growing media provided by Columbia Green while avoiding exceeding the structural limitations of this historic building. The custom vegetative roof growing media was locally blended and formulated to meet the rigorous requirements of the rooftop environment for particle size gradation, fines content, dry and saturated bulk density, total porosity, air-filled porosity, water retention, hydraulic conductivity, pH balance, soluble salt content and organic matter content.
The Meadow Atop The Old Chicago Post Office – World Landscape Architecture (WLA)
The Old Chicago Post Office – Now a Neighborhood Park – Living Architecture Monitor