Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

News release



Air conditioning in Great Hall, expanded seating, improved passenger flow

CHICAGO, October 4, 2010 – Amtrak has begun work to improve Union Station in Chicago and relieve some Amtrak passenger overcrowding by nearly doubling the seating in its general passenger lounges, increasing the number of public restrooms and by providing air conditioning in the Great Hall for the first time since the early 1960s.  The $40 million project is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

In concert with these passenger-related improvements, Amtrak is moving forward to create a redevelopment plan for the historic station’s Headhouse Building and has selected Jones Lang LaSalle to conduct a feasibility study on the best plan for its use.

“Improvements to Amtrak Chicago Union Station are a top priority,” said Thomas Carper, Chairman, Amtrak Board of Directors. “Illinois is a national leader for passenger rail, and its commitment to work with other Midwestern states to build a robust service network from Union Station will allow us to bring more travelers to and from Downtown Chicago.”

“We want to make improvements to benefit our passengers and position the building with a marketable plan as the economy recovers, with more vitality than ever in our West Loop neighborhood,” said Bruce Looloian, Amtrak Assistant Vice President, Real Estate Development.  He noted Amtrak ridership in Chicago has grown in the last dozen years by more than 40 percent, topping 3 million passengers in 2009.

“This major construction project will put Illinoisans back to work and help Union Station give visitors to the city of Chicago a welcome befitting the Land of Lincoln,” said Gov. Pat Quinn, who today held a news conference at the station to commend Amtrak. “New high-speed passenger rail service will bring thousands of visitors to downtown Chicago, boosting our tourism industry and supporting Illinois’ continued economic recovery.”

“The federal funding that has helped make the improvements to Amtrak Chicago Union Station possible will pay immediate dividends by creating or sustaining 100 construction jobs. Those are good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).  “Less crowding, easier connections and a comfortable waiting area will help Amtrak keep its customers happy and keep them coming back through town.

“Having those updates made by the time the first high speed trains come rolling through town will serve Illinoisans well,” Durbin added.

By summer 2011, air conditioning will return to the Great Hall and Amtrak passengers will be able to use it as a waiting area as it was originally intended.  More than 40 years ago, the railroads that previously shared ownership of the station abandoned the system that cooled the Great Hall.

By the end of 2012, seating in the north and south boarding lounges for coach and business class passengers will expand to 950 seats – nearly double the current 450 – by relocating the area used by sleeping car passengers.  Additional restrooms will also be installed on the Concourse (track) Level, which was last improved in 1991.

For passengers traveling on long-distance, overnight trains, the relocated Metropolitan Loungesm will have nearly 200 seats, an increase of 50, by moving it into an area between the Concourse and the Great Hall.

With air conditioning, the Great Hall will become a year-round event venue, generating increased rental income.  The remaining Headhouse space will also become more attractive for lease by Amtrak and its Chicago Union Station Co.   Amtrak will reduce costs by moving its regional offices from leased space south of the station into parts of two lower floors of the Headhouse by the end of 2011.

During the past two years, at a cost of $7 million, Amtrak removed the primitive air conditioning and other obsolete equipment from the lower levels of the Headhouse while repairing the façade and making other fire and life-safety improvements to facilitate use of the upper floors of the 85-year-old building.

Jones Lang LaSalle will develop plans for the available space in the eight-story Headhouse, which will convert the Amtrak-owned Chicago landmark into a performing real estate asset.  America’s Railroadsm  uses revenue from its real estate to offset the costs of the passenger rail network, helping Amtrak cover nearly 80 percent of its operating costs from non-Federal sources.

Jones Lang LaSalle was chosen to take a totally fresh look at the highest and best use for the Building, following a competitive process.  A development plan for the Headhouse is expected this fall.

“Jones Lang LaSalle is bringing a fresh perspective to the table which, coupled with our experience and intimate knowledge of the building, will enable us to find the best market-driven solution for the project,” said Joe Caprile, Senior Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle. “Union Station is an underutilized landmark and an asset to Chicago in an emerging area. We believe in this project and think it is important to make it a reality.”

More information about Amtrak Chicago Union Station, including its history and role in the Midwest’s transportation network, is on the attached fact sheet.
About Amtrak

As the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, Amtrak connects America in safer, greener healthier ways.  Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history.  With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph)—to more than 500 destinations.   Amtrak also is the partner of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for several commuter rail agencies. Visit or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information.
About Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate.  With 2009 global revenue of $2.5 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 60 countries from 750 locations worldwide, including 180 corporate offices.  The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 1.6 billion square feet worldwide. LaSalle Investment Management, the company’s investment management business, is one of the world’s largest and most diverse in real estate with approximately $38 billion of assets under management.  For further information, please visit