A Chicago real estate developer wants to convert a landmark downtown building into a 15-story auto mall.
Prime Group Inc. is bidding to buy the 2.7-million-square-foot main Chicago post office. The developer wants to make it an auto retail center, complete with auto-related stores, services and entertainment.
Prime's proposal is one of several the U.S. Postal Service is considering as it prepares to sell the 66-year-old building.
The proposal also calls for 300,000 square feet of office space unrelated to the auto mall.
Prime Group is a privately owned Chicago-based real estate company that owns parts of other real estate firms traded on the New York Stock Exchange. One of its holdings is Prime Group Realty Trust, also of Chicago, which posted sales of $65.6 million and operating income of $26.8 million in the first half of fiscal 1998.
The developer would pay cash for the post office building, but company officials declined to reveal their purchase bid. An additional $220 million would convert the building into 15 floors of vehicle showrooms, service facilities and parking, with enough floor space to house about 5,000 vehicles.
Architectural renderings depict dealerships with as much as five acres of indoor floor space each. The roof of the building would be converted into a one-mile test track, complete with simulated road conditions.
As to who might move into the proposed mall, Prime officials were mum last week.
'We have spoken to retailers in general terms,' said Gary Skoien, Prime Group Inc. COO. 'We've also started talking directly to the factories.'
But in real estate development, he added, 'It's hard to talk specifics until you have control of the property.'
The Chicago plan is the second step in Prime's foray into auto retailing. Last month the developer broke ground on the Huntley Auto Mall in northern Illinois, the first of a proposed chain of auto malls to be built adjacent to factory retail outlet malls.