Governor Pritzker finalizes deal to sell Thompson Center for $70 million

CHICAGO (SCS) — Governor JB Pritzker has finalized a deal to sell the Thompson Center to a private developer for $70 million, in a bid to preserve the iconic 17-story building designed by the late architect Helmut Jahn.

Pritzker’s office announced Thursday that the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) has signed a purchase and sale agreement for the Thompson Center with JRTC Holdings, LLC, which is owned by real estate developer Michael Reschke.

The governor’s office said the agreement to sell the aging Thompson Center will preserve the historic building, while saving taxpayers $800 million in operating, maintenance and repair costs.

The governor first announced his intention to sell the Thompson Center to Reschke in December, seven months after issuing an initial request from bidders to buy the building.

As part of the agreement, the state will receive an upfront payment of $70 million from JRTC Holdings, while retaining 425,000 square feet of renovated office space in the Thompson Center.

The state expects the financial close and transfer of ownership of the agreement to be completed this summer, while the state and Reschke work together to finalize floor plans and interior design for the space. that the state will continue to occupy.

The sale of the Thompson Center has been a priority for Pritzker since taking office in 2019.

The deal with Reschke, who plans to renovate the building rather than demolish it to build a new development on the site, is a victory for conservatives, who feared the sale of the Thompson Center would lead to its demolition.

The building’s redevelopment plan is expected to create thousands of construction jobs; as well as new property tax revenue for Cook County, the City of Chicago and its sister agencies.

The Thompson Center has long housed the office of the Governor of Chicago, as well as the Chicago offices of several state agencies. But the Pritzker administration began moving state employees who worked there to a new office building at 555 W. Monroe St. last year. The Governor’s office at the Thompson Center is still open.

The 17-story building at 100 W. Randolph St. has long been criticized as an overpriced and inefficient home for state government offices in Chicago.

When it opened in 1985, the large, open atrium inside and its open office floors were meant to pay homage to open government – the inspiration of architect Helmut Jahn – but the building’s design made it extremely expensive to exploit.

With its single-glazed glass walls providing insufficient insulation in both summer and winter, the Thompson Center is costing taxpayers a fortune to heat and cool.

Drainage problems have resulted in the rusting of some of the building’s pillars, and as the stone cracks and falls, unsightly scaffolding has been placed around the building for long periods of time.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner announced in 2015 that he planned to ask state lawmakers to ask him to offload the Thompson Center. At the time, Rauner said the building needed $100 million in maintenance over the next few years, and said selling the building and moving state employees elsewhere could save money. the state between 6 and 12 million dollars a year.

Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel blocked efforts to move forward with the sale, insisting the city should not be held financially responsible for rebuilding the Chicago Transit Authority Clark subway station. / Lake Blue Line inside the building as part of any major site redevelopment.

In 2017, Rauner proposed dedicating all future property tax revenue from a sale of the Thompson Center to help fund Chicago public schools – a proposal that Emanuel dismissed as a political stunt. Afterwards, Emanuel said he would help rezone the Thompson Center property in exchange for a city repo deal. Rauner refused the offer.

A sale ultimately never took place while Rauner was in office, but Pritzker signed legislation in 2019 allowing the building to be sold. This law was then modified to postpone the timetable for the sale, due to the pandemic.

The building opened in 1985 as the State of Illinois Center. It was renamed in 1993 in honor of former Governor James Thompson, who himself called the building a “junk pile”.

While the state calls the Thompson Center a cumbersome white elephant, some conservationists aren’t so eager to see it go.

The Thompson Center was once on the Landmarks Illinois list of Most Endangered Historic Places for three consecutive years.

In 2020, the Pritzker office selected Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors as project manager for the planned sale of the glass and steel office building designed by architect Helmut Jahn, and entered into negotiations with Ernst & Young on a contract to oversee the sale.

Landmarks Illinois called the Thompson Center an example of large-scale postmodern architecture, saying its “voluminous atrium and curved facades make it a unique downtown building.” He noted that when the Thompson Center opened in 1985, the late Chicago Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp wrote, “What we didn’t have in Chicago until Jahn designed the center was a contemporary vertical space of such splendid and theatrical dimensions.

Landmarks Illinois also noted that Gapp was enamored with the curved glass facades of the Thompson Center amid the vertical buildings that surrounded it: “In a city where architects have so long revered the 90-degree angle and black curtain walls , the asymmetry and the multicolored skin of the center seem almost an impudent snub to the past.”

And ironically, in an April 1980 Chicago Tribune article published as the old Sherman House hotel was being demolished to make way for the Thompson Center, Howard Mandell of the National Wrecking Company was quoted weighing in on the office of State then still to be built. complex, saying, “It looks like glass. It would be fun to tear it down.”


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