Union Station entrance on Clinton Street reopened after being walled off more than 40 years

It’s not just you — that entrance along Clinton Street at Union Station may be unfamiliar. That’s because it had been closed for decades before reopening in early August.

The entrance, which leads into the station’s Great Hall, has been walled off since a 1980 fire in which one person died, said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesperson. After the fire, Magliari said, windows were removed and the openings were bricked over.

Now, the entrance is wide open, with new windows looking into the Great Hall. An elevator allows the entrance to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Magliari said, though he added that Amtrak also has been seeking quotes for adding temporary ramp to allow wheelchair users to go from street level to floor level.

The entrance at Clinton and Jackson Boulevard has long been equipped with automatic doors and a ramp into the Great Hall, Magliari said.

Colorful posters touting other Amtrak routes span the walls above a passenger waiting area just inside the newly reopened entrance. The posters were saved from the Union Station parking garage before it was demolished a few years ago, Magliari said.

"We wanted to preserve them," he said. "It’s better than bare white walls."

The garage site was sold, and a BMO Tower now stands there. About $10 million in proceeds from that land sale was spent on renovations for a Union Station food hall, Magliari told the Sun-Times in 2019.


The food hall project was started in 2019. Though it’s seen some delays due to COVID, Magliari said, Amtrak’s main goal was to finish the entrance and space before construction began on Canal Street.

The space, between the Great Hall and Clinton Street on the station’s west side, was once the Fred Harvey Lunch Room, part of a national chain catering to rail passengers.

Magliari said Amtrak doesn’t yet have a definitive timeline for finishing the food hall but is in discussions with possible tenants. Amtrak hopes to find a "master tenant" that will market the space to different vendors.

The space is "roughed in," Magliari said, meaning it’s ready for vendors to move in, and then customize the space to suit their needs.

Plans for the food hall follow other renovations to Union Station, which opened in 1925. The Metropolitan Lounge, which offers soft drinks, coffee and snacks for passengers in business class and sleeper cars, opened in 2016, the same year the former Women’s Lounge was revamped to create an event space. A skylight in the Great Hall was restored in 2018, fixing water leaks that had persisted for decades.