Amtrak's Master Development Request for Qualification

On June 9, 2016, Amtrak  held a mandatory pre-proposal meeting for all parties interested in responding to Amtrak's Chicago Union Station Master Developer Request for Qualification ("RFQ").  Amtrak is seeking a master developer to create and implement a plan for commercial development and renovation of the historic Union Station and surrounding property.  The project's goals include investing in development opportunities to realize value from currently underutilized assets, generate an upfront development fee and on-going revenue that can be reinvested in Amtrak's operations and improve circulation within the station and improve its  connectivity with the surrounding area.

The responses to the RFQ are due July 1.  According to the current schedule, Amtrak expects to select short-listed proposers (4 or 5 teams at the most) by July 29.  An RFP will be issued to the short-listed proposers on October 14, 2016.  Amtrak expects to announce a selected proposer by January 27, 2017.  Below are links to the presentation materials provided at the pre-proposal meeting (which includes an overview of the project and site description) and the RFQ.

Amtrak's goal is to create a thriving commercial and civic center that expands the public’s perception of the station beyond that of a mere transportation hub to a preferred destination for travelers, local workers and residents.   At the pre-proposal meeting, Amtrak representatives stated that they envision the property being transformed into "the living room of the West Loop."  They stated that the three key elements to be considered in the proposals are financial components, design and connectivity. 

The key stakeholders include the City of Chicago, Regional Transportation Authority, Illinois Department of Transportation, and Metra.   Amtrak also requires that the master developer seek and incorporate feedback from stakeholders in the surrounding West Loop community in its development plan.

In addition to providing a master development plan for all of the designated areas, developers would be given the opportunity to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the newly developed areas.  The master developer will be required to provide the financing necessary for the project, including any required debt and equity.  Amtrak will provide any necessary support to help secure federal credit enhancement and facilities, however, it will not assume any direct financial interest.

The renovation space includes up to 1.3 million square feet spread out over 14 acres.  In addition, Amtrak owns the air rights to develop another 3 million spare feet of office space above buildings at the station complex.   

The areas to be developed are the station’s Headhouse (the portions of passenger terminal that serve travelers, such as ticket counters, waiting rooms, rest rooms and baggage facilities), the concourses and sites surrounding the station. The Headhouse is eight stories tall and covers 579,531 square feet, 60,000 of which is office space. The remaining areas contain waiting areas, and retail and unused space.  The concourse has 23,922 square feet of occupied retail space and 37,396 square feet of unoccupied space. Just south of the Headhouse is a six-level parking garage with 1,679 parking spaces and 5,277 square feet of retail space.

The station is Amtrak’s third busiest station with more than 33.4 million passengers in FY 2014 and ridership is expected to rise. Amtrak’s overall ridership is projected to triple over the next 25 years and, so the master developer's plan must incorporate this growth.

Amtrak plans on launching similar development projects at its other major stations, including its stations in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.

Since Baker & McKenzie attended the mandatory pre-proposal meeting, we are eligible to submit a response on behalf of a team.  Please let us know if you are interested in pursuing this unique opportunity or would like additional information.