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State open to public-private partnership on Thompson Center sale

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Tribune

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is open to the creation of a public-private partnership as part of its plan to sell the Thompson Center in the Loop and relocate the state’s Chicago workforce to new office space.

That’s one takeaway from a request for proposals the state Department of Central Management Services issued Thursday as it seeks to unload the controversial Helmut Jahn-designed state headquarters. The state is seeking a project manager to oversee the sale of the 17-story, 1.2 million-square-foot building, assess the state’s Chicago real estate holdings, and plan for where state workers will move following the sale, among other services.

The document says the state is looking for a buyer that will help relocate the state’s workforce to an alternate site, which “may mean new construction on one or more sites of vacant land (owned or purchased) or renovation of a property in a Chicago neighborhood with adequate public transportation options (owned or purchased).” The Pritzker administration also wants its project manager to help negotiate an ownership stake for the state in the new site or sites, according to the 56-page document.

* From the RFP

CMS will use this expertise and assess its current asset(s) to develop and execute a strategy for an alternate delivery of project, including but not limited to Public-Private-Partnership (“P3”) and Design-Build (“DB”) delivery methods. It is the intent of the State to package the sale of JRTC and relocations of its State occupants as one project delivery method. As part of the Offer, Respondents are encouraged to provide unique ideas around project delivery methods and include relevant and past project examples.

* One Illinois

But prominent preservationist groups urged the state to include plans for retaining and repurposing the building even in the early steps toward selling it.

“Corporations continue to migrate to Chicago from suburbs and beyond, and we believe the Thompson Center presents itself as a desirable reuse option for corporate offices and many other uses,” said Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, in a statement released Wednesday. “We urge the Pritzker administration to include our re-envisioning study … to ensure that the Thompson Center may shine as the one-of-a-kind postmodern marvel that it is.”

Landmarks Illinois placed the Thompson Center on its annual list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in the state in May for the third straight year. That built on a “Thompson Center Reimagined” study the group released last year, which included a proposed “new tower, with a footprint of approximately 13,000 square feet, … developed on the southwest corner with hotel uses on the lower floors and residential on the upper floors.”

Landmarks Illinois is requesting that the state at least include that study in its request for proposals to find a consultant to aid the sale, and it was backed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which included the Thompson Center earlier this year in its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“Millions of people visit Chicago every year to experience its diverse architectural landscape, a testament to the city’s longstanding commitment to preservation and innovative design,” said Jennifer Sandy, associate field director for the trust. “Now that many modern and postmodern buildings like the Thompson Center are at risk, Chicago can again demonstrate its leadership on a new generation of buildings worthy of preservation and reuse. Breathing new life into the Thompson Center — not throwing it away — is the right thing to do economically, environmentally, and architecturally.”

As long as it’s turned into the coolest water park in the world, I’m good.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

7 Comments
  1. - B-non - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    Probably better to breathe insecticide throughout the building first.


  2. - Proud Sucker - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    Just a thought, CMAP is moving into the Old Post Office. Maybe the State can look there as well.


  3. - en absentia - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    I bet some Springfield based property development company’s ‘ears’ perked up today.


  4. - anon - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Gov. Pritzker will not relocate offices to Springfield (and about 3+ floors of the Thompson Center are devoted to employees of entities not under the Governor).


  5. - bear 3 - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 3:22 pm:

    Just one Capital in Springfield. Cut duplication and dollars. It is the JOB you were elected too and for. travel allowance……….


  6. - MyTwoCents - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 3:37 pm:

    If they’re planning on shifting some employees across the street to the Bilandic Building I hope there’s capital plan money available for some renovations because that building is in desperate need of work.

    On the other hand, if part of the RFP is to have new construction to replace JRTC, if the location is away from downtown, why not include enough space to move all the employees/functions from the Bilandic Building to the new site? It would make no sense to have the 2 major State government buildings separated and it would be easier for ISP to protect 1 campus. You would also have the additional advantage of the proceeds from selling another downtown Chicago property.


  7. - revvedup - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 4:23 pm:

    Here’s an absolutely insane idea: Instead of moving all the people and offices out of JRTC, why not fix the windows? The story is they only used single-panes, not energy-efficient double-or-triple panes, so the air conditioning couldn’t keep up with the increased thermal load, causing at least some of the building’s problems. Deferred maintenance caused others, but maybe they could save the building for public/private tenancy. They might also save a lot of money moving everybody out, new expensive leases, etc.


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