Chicago Preservationists Get a Present From Pritzker: The Thompson Center Lives

The Thompson Center, once widely considered to be an ex-parrot, has gone from “stick a fork in it” to “put a ring on it” faster than reality TV dating show.

Governor Pritzker announced that he’s in talks with a Prime Group to buy and rehabilitate the office building at 100 West Randolph Street. It is one of the most loved and hated buildings in downtown. We haven’t seen such mixed emotion from the public since the Mr. Submarine renovation nearly a decade ago.

December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation
December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation

In a statement, the state’s head of state stated that selling the former state building will save the state $800,000,000. Which is interesting, because demolitionists have stated that imploding the building and selling the land would raise a similar amount of money.

Because of its age and poor stewardship by the State of Illinois, it’s estimated that renovating the property will cost nearly a third of a billion dollars. In essence, Prime Group is buying a trashed party house, then bringing the fraternity back in as roommates.

It looks like one of those sale-leaseback deals that the casino industry is so into these days. The State of Illinois will sell the building for $70,000,000. Once the building is renovated, the state will spend $148,000,000 to buy 425,000 square feet of office space in the building which it abandoned just months ago because it wasn’t suitable for offices anymore. So, where does the $800,000,000 in savings come from? Pritzker says it’s because the state will consolidate office space from other locations where the state has employees into the building it currently owns, and will once again own a third of after the renovation.

December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation
December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation

If you remember reducing fractions in fifth grade, the state will spend $78 million to buy office space in a building it couldn’t afford to spend $325 million renovating, ending up with a snack, instead of the whole enchilada.

As for Prime Group, it plans to replace the exterior glass, and separate the offices from the atrium. It might also install a hotel, but that’s not certain yet. The renovation is being designed by JAHN, so even if the numbers get your undies in a bundle, you can feel relieved that the project is in sympathetic hands.

December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation
December, 2021 rendering of the proposed Thompson Center renovation

Location: 100 West Randolph Street, The Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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