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What’s up with the Thompson Center sale?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tina Sfondeles

In another sign of the political war between Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a bill to let the governor move closer to selling the Thompson Center was met by resistance by state House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who called it “another attempted money grab by the City of Chicago and a bad deal for the taxpayers of Illinois.”

Rauner has been pushing for the sale since 2015 but Republicans weren’t happy with the Democratic-sponsored measure, arguing the governor should control future zoning changes and development costs. Republicans argued the bill would limit the state’s ability to get the most profit over the sale. The governor has said the state could get $300 million from the sale.

* From House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

“The Democratic bill to sell the James R. Thompson Center is another attempted money grab by the City of Chicago and a bad deal for the taxpayers of Illinois. The James R. Thompson Center was built with state taxpayer money and is owned by the State of Illinois – not the City of Chicago. Our first obligation should be to negotiate a deal that maximizes proceeds to benefit the State of Illinois. The bill that passed the House tonight takes care of Chicago at the expense of all other Illinois taxpayers.

* I asked Durkin’s office what that “money grab” was about and they sent me this passage from the Democrats’ proposal…

Any contract to dispose of the property is subject to the following conditions:

(1) A commitment from the purchaser to make any applicable payments to the City of Chicago with respect to additional zoning density;

* The Democrats forwarded me this language which was favored by the governor…

Any contract to dispose of the property is subject to the following conditions:

(1) commitment from the purchaser to make any applicable payments to the City of Chicago with respect to additional zoning density, as agreed to between the administrator and the City of Chicago in a memorandum of understanding or other agreement;

The “administrator” in this instance is the Rauner administration.

Chicago has a zoning density program that allocates money from major downtown property developments to neighborhoods.

The governor wants to be a part of that negotiating process. Mayor Emanuel, who’s been battling the governor tooth and nail, doesn’t want him involved.

There’s no money grab here. This is about who controls the process.

* Tribune

Rauner’s office insisted their proposal would not give his office zoning supervision over the city, but would just protect the state’s interests and help ensure it can sell the property at the highest value. But the governor could reach a deal with the city on zoning before selling the land without it being required in the legislation. Rauner aides couldn’t explain how their proposal would offer taxpayers extra protection.

Whatever zoning Emanuel’s administration applies to the Thompson Center moving forward is key, because it could have a significant impact on whether Rauner gets anywhere close to the $300 million he’s claimed the property is worth.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, said the legislation served as “framework” for a sale and said it wouldn’t be appropriate to include specifics of negotiations between the city and the state on zoning in the legislation.

“We know there are going to be very tough negotiations between the (Rauner) administration and the city of Chicago with regard to the fees and the zoning of that land,” Riley said. “… We’re not in that. It’s going to be up to them to decide what they’re going to do.”


  1. - Fixer - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:48 am:

    Since he’s done such a great job negotiating anything else he’s touched since being elected… /s

  2. - Montrose - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:48 am:

    This is a sincere question - would the seller of a property ever have a formal role in these types of zoning density negotiations with the city? It doesn’t make sense to me that such negotiations would include anyone but the buyer/developer and the city.

  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:50 am:

    I’m certain that Durkin is well-informed and intelligent.

    Yet recently he’s been telling the public things he must know are not true.

    There’s a word for that.

  4. - Arsenal - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:51 am:

    This is ridiculous. Rauner, you need wins pretty badly right now. Take one when it’s offered.

  5. - dejavu - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:06 am:

    ==- Montrose - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:48 am:
    This is a sincere question - would the seller of a property ever have a formal role in these types of zoning density negotiations with the city? It doesn’t make sense to me that such negotiations would include anyone but the buyer/developer and the city. ==

    No, they would not be involved. It’s a negotiation between the City and the entity seeking to change zoning. In this situation, the State wants the City to rezone before the sale, but doesn’t want to make the payment required by City ordinance. The bill as it passed the House creates an option for the State and the City to negotiate a zoning change now and allow the purchaser, rather than the State, to pay the fee. The language from the governor would require the state and the city to approve payment, putting the state in a position to dictate how the city handles zoning.

    Rich is right. This is a power grab. It’s not good government.

  6. - Juice - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    So the Governor things that whoever buys his property should get to play by different rules than everyone else who wants to build in the central business district?

    Sounds about par for the course.

  7. - Nick Name - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:11 am:

    “The governor wants to be a part of that negotiating process.”

    L, as they say, OL.

  8. - PublicServant - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    I thought the governor was going to leave local matters up to the locals. Pretty much doesn’t get more local than zoning. Just sayin.

  9. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:22 am:

    Do Rauner and Durkin really disagree on why Republicans oppose the bill? So whose ducks are out of line?

  10. - Flynn's mom - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    Rauner once again not understanding his role.

  11. - Honeybear - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    The word is PERFIDY!

    Born of privilege to benefit the privileged

    Because sometimes you’ve just got to lie

    To win

  12. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    If the goal for the Guv was to sell the Thompson Center, then he would grin and bear this legislation and sell the Thompson Center.

    If the goal for the Guv was to paint MJM as nothing as an obstructionist who is ruining the state, then he would send Durkin out to mislead and regurgitate a word salad with “money grab by Chicago” “bad deal for taxpayers” “Madigan protecting friends”, but not providing any facts that support his bluster.

    It’s all about priorities. Decreasing MJM’s power is more important to the Guv than improving the state.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    I guess Rauner wants to get into the Zoning business.

    That’s fun.

    I’m surprised Leader Durkin is getting so “emotional” about this.

    Emotional. “Rauner gets it”

  14. - hockey fan - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    The State has no legitimate claim or interest in zoning issues in downtown Chicago. This is just one more point of ridiculousness.

    Rauner should declare victory and sign the bill. It may be the only actual accomplishment he can point to.

  15. - Montrose - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    Thanks, dejavu. That is what I thought.

  16. - A guy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:48 pm:

    Snarky, but hopefully funny:

    Sell it. Move all the state operations to Oswego and call it the Edgar Center?

    Just make sure the building has 50% less capacity.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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