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The Meadow at Old Chicago Post Office

Hoerr Schaudt

Chicago, Illinois, United States

July 2020


Rob Gray (Principal), Stan Szwalek (Principal)


JLL (Building Operator and Property Management), Telos (Leasing Agent), Columbia Green (Soil Supplier), Gensler (Architect), WSP (Structural Engineer


The 601W Companies




The Old Chicago Post Office story is the tale of how an iconic piece of architecture gained a second chance at life. In 2016, developer 601W Companies purchased the building to revitalize it into a modern work environment. The surrounding neighborhood lacked the green space desired to support the influx of nearly 10,000 tenants who would occupy the building. By leveraging the building’s vast roof area, 3.5 acres, the Meadow was born.

Creating an urban patch of natural habitat was one of the driving concepts behind the design of the Meadow. The project leveraged the benefits of biophilic design to establish the rooftop as a quiet place where people could seek respite from their offices while being offered chance encounters with nature.

With the addition of the green roof, approximately one and a half acres of hard-surfaced material were converted to living vegetation, which helps alleviate the immediate heat island effect on site as well as its cumulative impacts across the city. Sheltered by a continuous perimeter of 8-foot-tall parapet walls, the Meadow provides a semi-protected landscape that many bird and insect species find attractive, promoting biodiversity and ecological resilience.

The rooftop also includes a quarter-mile running track, providing the ideal setting for a stroll or a jog through the rich verdant tapestry of plants. A full-sized basketball court occupies the center of the roof, while the two-paddle tennis and pickleball courts provide further opportunities for outdoor recreation for its tenants.


The most sustainable building is the one that's already built. This statement rings true through the repositioning efforts at the iconic Old Chicago Post Office. By leveraging the building's vast roof area as an asset, the Meadow became the nation's largest private rooftop garden, enabling the space to become a park unto itself for the thousands of tenants working beneath it.

Situated in the heart of Chicago, this hulking mass of a structure, built in 1921, spans two city blocks and boasts over 2.5 million square feet of floor space. Despite its historical significance, the building fell victim to the modernization of the postal delivery system, leading to its closure, and eventually sat vacant for almost two decades.

The Meadow's design pays homage to the building's Art Deco style, seamlessly integrating its architectural heritage. Despite challenges posed by loading constraints, innovative solutions such as ultra-lightweight soil mixes were employed to create an immersive green space filled with over 40,000 plants across 3.5 acres. These native and adapted perennials and grasses not only provide habitat for bird and insect species but also serve as a vital stormwater management system, intercepting and diverting over 300,000 gallons from entering the city's strained storm sewer system.

Moreover, the Meadow transcends its role as a mere amenity for building tenants. Its impact extends beyond the confines of the building. The Meadow exemplifies how innovative design and thoughtful integration of a site can transform existing structures into catalysts for positive, sustainable change in the urban landscape.


Through its adaptive reuse, the Meadow serves as a highly visible example of how rooftop landscapes can be used to accommodate a wide variety of programs in an attractive and sustainable setting. While it serves primarily as an area of respite and nature for tenants, the space can be rented for events and has already hosted various conferences, fundraisers, and weddings.

Not only providing benefit to the building's occupants, the Meadow was designed with sustainability in mind for the larger Chicago community. The building operator worked with the project designers to create a home for three thriving bee colonies that help pollinate the Meadows. These bees also produce 100 pounds of honey each year, which is shared with local food pantries. Within the first year of its establishment, the rooftop became a favorite spot for birds and insects, and every visit to the Meadow offered new encounters with its inhabitants.

The Meadow has played a vital role in repositioning a historic structure in the city's fabric, preserving one of the city's great architectural treasures. While doing so, Chicago has gained a sizeable urban employment center near existing transit stations, housing, and other community resources.

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