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Thompson Center sale expected to advance with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s backing

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The state’s top elected official is committed to selling the controversial postmodern building


A bill authorizing the sale of Chicago’s polarizing James R. Thompson Center made it to the desk of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. The politician is still reviewing the legislation but supports selling the state-owned property, a spokesperson told The Daily Line on Thursday.

Known as SB 886, the measure passed the Illinois House and Senate in 2017 but remained stuck in legislative limbo during the budgetary standoff. If signed by Pritzker as expected, it would allow the state to move its offices out of the blue and pink building at 100 W. Randolph Street and clear a path for the structure’s eventual sale. Pritzker has 60 days to act on the measure, according to the report.

Redeveloping the aging Thompson Center was a top priority of former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who believed the sale could net $300 million for the state and avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance costs. In 2017, the politician even presented conceptual renderings from architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill showing a 1,700-foot supertall skyscraper rising in the Thompson Center’s place.

Chicago politicians including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly were lukewarm to the redevelopment plan, doubting that the parcel could fetch Rauner’s estimated dollar amount and expressing concern over its potential impact on CTA infrastructure. When the sale did not go ahead under Rauner’s watch, it left behind a $300 million hole in the state’s 2019 budget.


With a different administration now in Springfield, the plan appears to be gathering momentum once again. “The Thompson Center is something that we are serious about selling,” Deputy Governor Dan Hynes told Crain’s on Thursday. “I think there’s a new dialogue that exists between the governor and the mayor.”

Although Rauner had planned to use the Thompson Center’s sale proceeds to balance the state’s operating budget, Pritzker’s office says it will use the funds to address the state’s unfunded pension liabilities and other unpaid bills, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s preservation community continues its fight to save the Thompson Center. Efforts to landmark the 1984 building, designed by distinguished Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn, have culminated in rallies, petitions, and even a short-subject documentary film. The movement is framed by the larger debate regarding the historical significance of postmodern architecture.

Perhaps accepting the reality that something needs to be done with the neglected and inefficient building, Jahn himself unveiled a new vision for the site which preserves the existing structure while adding a slender 110-story tower to its southwest corner. Whether or not a new owner would consider the architect’s plan, however, is another matter.

James R. Thompson Center

100 West Randolph Street, , IL 60601 Visit Website