That's right, friends. Just 12 cents, a measly 12 cents per square foot, could make you the proud new owner of Chicago's largest antique: the 1932 former post office! Straddler of expressways, repeller of investors, threatening bankruptcy to any demolition company who dares to destroy it - it can all be yours!
That 12 cents comes from dividing the building's 2.5 million square feet (the Merchandise Mart has 4), into the suggested opening bid of $300,000 for an August 27th auction of the property. As reported by, among others, the Sun-Times David Roeder, Walton Street Capital has walked away from a $300 development plan that would have seen the razing of a large part of the building that crosses over the Eisenhower Expressway. The deal collapsed even though Walton was in line for a $51 million subsidy from the local TIF slush fund, and would have gotten back $9 million of the $10 million it was going to pay the postal service for the acquisition.
Now the postal service, spending $2 million a year just to keep the building shuttered, is reduced to playing the role of desperately motivated seller. "Whatever we can get from a sale," a spokesman told Roeder, "every penny counts." So that $300,000 could be the opening of a Dutch auction; not a floor, but a ceiling from which bids descend on a steep incline towards zero. If you're enough of a gambler, you might be able to win the behemoth on Harrison for not even the change in your pocket, just the lint.
The old Main Post Office was once a proud symbol of civic achievement, of American power and affluence. It's block long lobby was one of the most spectacular - if chilly - interiors in Chicago. Now it's garbage.
So we're back to square one. We could do a lot worse than to return to architect John Ronan's brilliant vision of turning the Post Office into a Municipal Mausoleum, a Pantheon for both Chicago's greatest and its common men and women, an incredible spectacle of urban drama that boldly re-imagined the expression of urban life - and death - through architecture.
Of course, all of the city's dutifully sober critics at the time, most prominently dismissed the concept as a morbid caprice not even worth discussing. The big idea on their platter? (Except for Blair Kamin. Blair Kamin never proposed condo's) Condo's. Carving condo's out of floorplates as big as two square blocks and actually suckering people into buying them. Yeah, right. Remind me again, which of those ideas was the big fantasy?
Read what I wrote about Ronan's proposal here - with illustrations - and judge for yourself.