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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, August 8

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Architecture Wed Jul 08 2009

Got $300k? Buy This Landmark

Looking to buy some property? $300,000 might fetch you a nice two-bedroom condo in Lincoln Square, or you could invest in something more spacious: how about a 14-floor, 3 million square foot fixer-upper in the West Loop? Something that, say, straddles the Eisenhower as it becomes Congress Parkway?


On August 27, 2009, the United States Postal Service is liquidating the former Chicago Main Post Office at auction with the suggested starting bid of just $300,000. The building has been vacant since 1997, when the need for modernized sorting equipment forced a move from the old location at 404 W. Harrison to its current site at 443 W. Harrison. But vacant buildings still require heat, and the owners still have to pay property tax. So this hulking structure -- which occupies four city blocks -- has been a major thorn in the Postal Service's side for 11 years. In fact the Postal Service has tried to sell the facility by "traditional methods" before, resulting in a few failed bids.


Enter Rick Levin and Associates, the auctioneers hell-bent on bringing the gavel down once and for all on this massive structure.

The real estate auction firm announced in June it would offer the building, "to be sold absolute, regardless of price." Postal Service higher-ups believe the transparency of an open auction -- not to mention the eyebrow-raisingly cheap starting bid -- will result in its sale. Finally.

Obviously it's not your every day home buyer who'll end up the winning bidder. (Who do you know who needs 60 acres of floor space near Union Station? And it is near -- the building's structure rumbles with every incoming Amtrak.) Marketing materials designed to promote the building's sale are directed at companies looking to make Chicago their new headquarters, or so it seems. They contain phrases like "regional manufacturing output," not "loft-style condos." And a $250,000 cashier's check is required for all registered bidders at the event, to be held at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Still, the next month offers interested parties an opportunity to check out the landmark, which was built in 1921 and featured in several films, including Dark Knight. On-site inspections occur July 20 and 29, and August 6, 12 and 20.

What will the Postal Service do if the building doesn't sell? The future is uncertain. In 2005 the building was still considered "endangered," according to the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, after it was put on their Chicagoland Watchlist in 1997. But even future buyers have proposed its dramatic renovation, which may not be in line with what architecture purists envision.

But a sale, regardless of the buyer's plans, will finally mean some cash for the burdened Postal Service -- and just before another winter spent heating 60 acres of parquet-floored vacant warehouse space.

Check out more photos from the vacant Main Post Office building here.

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Julie / July 9, 2009 11:09 AM

Great pictures from the inside for those of us who'll never get in to see it in person. Thanks for sharing!

Katherine / July 9, 2009 3:24 PM

Thanks, Julie. I'm glad you like them. We had a lot of fun touring the place -- it really is massive. It was cool being inside a Chicago landmark I had long driven under, known about, and thought I'd never get to actually check out.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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