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CHICAGO (CBS) — You might not have known the name of the high-rise building that hangs over the main concourse of Union Station to begin with, but on Friday it is acquiring the name of its primary tenant, Fifth Third Bank.
The last time the building was in the headlines, the subject was a plan by an architect who wants to have it torn down.
The Chicago Architecture Blog reported Thursday that the building at 222 S. Riverside Plaza is being renamed the Fifth Third Center, and new backlit signs have been erected to reflect the new name.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third moved into the building in 2005, and expanded its occupancy in the building to 218,135 square feet in August, the Illinois Real Estate Journal reported. The bank has a customer branch on the first floor, and offices on floors 29 through 34, the Real Estate Journal reported.
The 35-story building was completed in 1971, and was originally known as Gateway Center III, Emporis.com reported. Its construction required the demolition of the 1925 train station concourse, which featured a 90-foot skylit hall that was inspired by ancient Roman baths, Emporis reported.
In May, a planner suggested that the building should be torn down for an expansion of Union Station, which is running out of room for trains and is coveted as a hub for a regional network of high-speed trains.
Architect Martin Wolf, of the firm Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz & Associates, pointed out in May that the legendary Daniel Burnham designed Union Station, and made a mistake by providing only two tracks that run all the way through while having the rest terminating on its north or south sides.
“We actually think that Daniel Burnham’s model does work, with a few adjustments, and one of those adjustments would be doing something with the building that is located where he had his existing concourse,” Wolf said.
That building, of course, is the one that just became the Fifth Third Center.
As audacious as it sounds, Wolf said in May that having the building torn down would be far cheaper than trying to find another rail route through the west Loop.
Wolf said Union Station has never run at its passenger capacity. He said Burnham designed it for 400,000 passengers a day, and said at most it has hosted 100,000. That is one reason why the original concourse building was torn down in 1969 to make way for the office tower. Its supports now stand in the way of any attempt to connect the stub-end tracks to the station’s north and south.
Wolf said in May that his proposal would create six new through tracks for high-speed trains, while retaining ample space for Metra and existing Amtrak service.
A new, semi-enclosed concourse area would take the Fifth Third Center’s place, with escalators descending to track level. Clearance would be left to accommodate electrification of commuter and intercity trains.