Through historically minded restoration and repositioning, the long-vacant 2.8 million-square-foot Chicago Post Office has been brought back to life as a hub for business and commerce.

The Chicago Post Office had not had a letter pass through it in over a decade. After the city was ranked among one of the worst in the country in postal deliveries, it was decided that a new facility, to be built just across Harrison Street, would replace the old one.

In 1997, a modernized building was constructed, and all postal operations moved out, abandoning the stunning art deco building that at that point had just attained National Historic Registry status. Several redevelopment efforts took place over the coming years, but none gained traction until New York based developer, 601 West Companies purchased the building in 2016, entrusting its renovation to Gensler and its team of designers.

Before

After

The task, in essence, was to transform an industrial warehouse into a modern workplace, and so it was pertinent that the revitalized building provided its tenants the same amenities that new construction buildings offered. This is how the Meadow came to be. At over three acres, the nation’s largest private rooftop garden would provide an escape for the building’s 16,000 tenants, offering plenty of seating, a quarter-mile running track, multi-sports court, and two platform tennis courts.

The rooftop was designed with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. The urban meadows and trees prevent more than a quarter-million gallons of stormwater from becoming polluted runoff. More than 50 species comprise the rooftop’s 41,000 plants, which capture over one million pounds of CO2 and decrease energy consumption as well as the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gasses. Three colonies of bees call The Meadow home, protecting and maintaining its ecosystem.

In an ever-evolving corporate environment, an emphasis has been rightfully placed on employee health and wellness in efforts to attract high quality employees and boost productivity. The Meadow delivers on this expectation by becoming an urban oasis and giving tenants a place to relax, exercise, and reconnect to nature. The art deco architecture influenced angular paths that weave through the plantings and immerse visitors in nature. The recreation spaces provide an outlet for tenants to burn some calories and reset their minds.

The rooftop comes at an especially relevant time as employees begin to navigate the return to work post-quarantine. Seating niches and collaboration pods have been distributed across the rooftop allowing tenants to work outside or even socialize while maintaining social distancing in an open-air environment.

Demonstrating the power that nature-focused recreation areas can have on the repositioning of our buildings and cities, this project provides green space in a neighborhood that currently lacks it, and gives occupants the rare opportunity to relax, recharge, and recreate.