(The Center Square) – The Thompson Center, an iconic Illinois state government building, has been sold to the highest bidder.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the announcement Wednesday that the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago sold for $70 million.
“We are taking a massive step forward with a plan that will result in the sale of the Thompson Center and it will save taxpayers $800 million,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker has been trying to unload the aging 17-story building since taking office. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner had also promised to sell the building. The sale of the building even became a repeated budget gimmick. The building, which opened in 1985, will be spared the wrecking ball. Illinois’ government will still have a presence in the building while developers plan to renovate the building with executive offices, retail and hotel space.
The Thompson Center has been home to the governor’s Chicago office, as well as multiple state agencies. But the Pritzker administration has been moving state employees who worked there to a new office building downtown.
State officials have said they had no preference whether the new owners saved the building. There were estimates that repairs would cost in the neighborhood of $325 million and were projected to increase to over $525 million, if not addressed by 2026.
This caught the ire of preservationists, who consider the Helmut-Jahn structure as an iconic example of postmodern architecture.
“We don’t care if the building is demolished or not even though, obviously, it is a beautiful building,” said Department of Central Management Services spokesperson Aysegul Kalaycioglu. “It was too big for us and had a lot of issues.”
The Thompson Center is costly to maintain with annual operating expenses of about $17 million, largely due to the building’s glass envelope. The design offered little insulation in the summer and winter, so the heating and cooling costs to taxpayers were substantial. The developer, the Prime Group, will replace the exterior building envelope and transform it into a multi-tenant, mixed-use office building.
The governor’s office said the deal is expected to close in summer 2022.