Project Details

After sitting vacant for several decades and becoming the topic of numerous failed redevelopment rumors, Chicago’s Old Post Office (OPO) was finally brought back to life in an ambitious renovation led BEAR Construction Company. At $1.2B, it remains the largest historic redevelopment in the country, as well as the most relevant example of the surge in adaptive reuse of older properties. The building was purchased in early 2016 by The 601W Companies, who immediately placed their trust in BEAR Construction due to a decade long partnership of successful projects. As work began in June of 2016, no one truly knew how the project would get completed, nor what the eventual use of the building would be. The early months of the project were focused on work to demolish and remediate the building’s interior, while the design and leasing teams focused on what would be needed to breathe life back into the hulking, 2.8M SF building. To quell the market’s skepticism surrounding the building’s history, 601W wanted an immediate and visible achievement, so they quickly engaged BEAR to restore the building’s beautiful, art-deco lobby, as well as in the creation of The Vault, an intimate space to host prospective tenants. BEAR successfully completed these areas just several months later, leading to an immediate buzz that proved that the new owners were serious about this endeavor. Over the next 12 months, the OPO became the leading office destination for Chicago’s largest firms.

As leasing interest surged, BEAR was presented with the daunting task of restoring utilities to the nearly 100-year-old building in short order. The property was essentially removed from the utility grid – no electric, water, gas or sewer services existed. Complicating those efforts, the building straddles the Chicago River, over two dozen active rail tracks and is bisected on the first floor by one of the busiest highways in the country. Aside from the utilities themselves, every new connection involved coordination with AMTRAK, the Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation, The US Army Corps of Engineers and other various agencies, each presenting their own set of unique challenges. Adding to the project’s complexity, the building is listed on both State and National Historic Registers. Historic tax credits that allowed the project to be financially viable necessitated close coordination with numerous agencies and consultants to meet the strict historical requirements and achieve the credits. Through careful planning, diligent coordination and seamless execution, BEAR completed these tasks and the project was able to move forward.

To attract large tenants, 601W needed to offer industry leading building amenities, materializing in nearly 96,000 square feet of class-leading space. An amazing fitness center, a state-of-the-art, customizable conference center seating 30 – 500 guests, a library, tenant lounge with bocce and pool tables and indoor parking for nearly 300 vehicles are housed on the building’s second floor. The first floor is anchored by a grand food hall featuring a dozen local dining options and a Walgreen’s retail outlet. The food hall flows seamlessly into an outdoor seating and lounge area along the river, allowing for outdoor dining and activities in a beautifully landscaped area. The crown jewel of the building, however, is The Meadow, a 4+ acre outdoor space featuring a rolling terrain of native plants and walking trails – a true urban oasis that seems a world removed from the busy streets below. The Meadow houses a heated outdoor lounge area, basketball/tennis courts, paddle tennis courts and numerous seating areas.

The building opened to its first tenants in October 2019 and by early 2020 was over 80% leased, a number which now exceeds 95%. BEAR Construction Company managed 35+ contracts throughout the project, each inter-connected and totaling roughly $450 million. BEAR also managed a number of the owner’s contracts, bringing the value of work managed by BEAR to roughly $700 million in that period. BEAR was also intimately involved in the remaining contracts and coordination, including design, furnishings and equipment. The Old Post Office renovation is the ultimate representation of what BEAR can accomplish as a strategic partner with any development or repositioning project. Our own Client Experience Lounge on the second floor stands as a testament to this tremendous achievement, and we continue to share the story of this journey with all who visit.

  • WINNER: 2023 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse
  • WINNER: 2021 Green Roof for Healthy Cities Award of Excellence
  • WINNER: 2020 CISCO Project of the Year for Rehabilitation
  • WINNER: 2020 Illinois Real Estate Journal Redevelopment/Reuse/Historic
  • WINNER: 2020 March of Dimes Construction Award
  • WINNER: 2020 Greater Chicago Food Depository Office Redevelopment of the Year
  • WINNER: 2020 Chicago Building Congress Renovation & Adaptive Reuse Merit Award
  • WINNER: 2020 ENR Midwest Renovation/Restoration Award of Merit

Indoor Drone Tour of The Old Chicago Post Office