Rauner Plans To Sell Thompson Center To Developers

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Bruce Rauner has announced plans to ask state lawmakers to allow him to unload the costly Thompson Center in the Loop, and move 2,200 state employees to other office space.

The headquarters for state government in Chicago was built in the mid 1980s,and designed by architect Helmut Jahn, but is considered outdated and in need of much-needed maintenance, something the state, with its massive, multi-billion dollar budget deficit, cannot afford.

The man it’s named for, former Gov. James Thompson, has famously called the building a “scrap heap.”

Rauner said the open design of the glass and steel building, with a soaring 17-story atrium, makes it noisy and smelly from the food court in the basement. He said it also costs taxpayers a fortune to heat and cool.

“Right now, relative to the cost in the regular office market – the average market downtown – we’re paying triple per person. We’re paying three times as much here as we would if we just did this as a normal office lease,” he said.

The governor said he wants to auction the prime piece of downtown real estate to raise cash and get rid of costly upkeep.

Rauner said the building needs $100 million in maintenance in the next few years. He said selling the building and moving state workers elsewhere could save the state between $6 million and $12 million annually. He called it a “good move” for taxpayers.

The governor wants a deal done next year, and plans to seek approval from theIllinois General Assembly, which might not be an easy feat, given the months-long budget stalemate between the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Republican governor.

In May, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reported the Rauner administration was moving full speed ahead to see if made sense to sell the building and move more than 2,000 state employees elsewhere.

At the time, one real estate insider said the property sale could top $300 million, with 10-year operating savings of nearly $200 million.

The building, 100 W. Randolph St., opened in May 1985 as the State of Illinois Center. It was renamed in 1993 to honor former Illinois Republican Gov James R. Thompson.

The building has more 17 floors of office space, plus retail and restaurants on the lower level.

Crain’s reports that any potential developer could raze the glass, cylinder-shaped building.

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