Historic Chicago Union Station Named
a "Top 10 Great Public Space" for 2012
CHICAGO, ILL.– On October 3, 2012, the American Planning Association (APA), a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning, announced that Chicago Union Station had been chosen as one of the nation’s Great Public Spaces for 2012. Established in 2007, the Great Places in America program recognizes places that exemplify exceptional character, cultural and historical interest and the impact of good planning on communities.
Union Station, constructed between 1913 and 1925, was highlighted for its architectural grandeur and inspiring neoclassical design. More than 120,000 Amtrak and Metra passengers, arriving on approximately 320 commuter and intercity trains, pass through the headhouse every weekday. In addition to space dedicated to commuters and long-distance travelers, the building accommodates a busy food court, shops and newly renovated offices. APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP, noted that at Union Station, “Art and function are masterfully intertwined, effectively merging urban planning, design, technology and transportation engineering.”
In response to the designation, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated: “Union Station is a Chicago institution, a gateway to our city and a connector for Chicagoans to the rest of the United States. For more than a century, Union Station has been a catalyst for economic growth, creating jobs and opportunity for Chicagoans.”
Twenty-four tracks enter from the north or south with nearly all terminating within the station, therefore making it the only double stub-end facility in the country. Even those who have never set foot in the building are probably familiar with the Great Hall. Its Corinthian columns, pink Tennessee marble floor, grand staircases and soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling have been prominent backdrops for numerous movies and television shows.
An ongoing $40 million renovation will double seating capacity for Amtrak passengers and upgrade other amenities. In May 2012, the Chicago Department of Transportation—in cooperation with Amtrak, Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority, Illinois Department of Transportation and other stakeholders—released the Chicago Union Station Master Plan Study. The product of extensive research and public discussion, the document sets out short, mid-range and long-term visions for the facility, which is expected to see an estimated 40 percent increase in ridership by 2040.
Read the APA News Release regarding the designation of Chicago Union Station as a Great Public Space, view the other 2012 Great Places in America winners, or learn more about the history of Chicago Union Station.