“It’s noisy. It’s a little bit smelly.”
That was part of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pitch Friday for the sale of the 32-year-old Thompson Center.
Standing in the lower level of the center’s atrium, Rauner renewed his call to sell it, saying the dated behemoth sits on “the most valuable piece of land in the entire country.”
The governor has been pushing for a sale of the post-modernist building at the corner of Clark and Randolph since he took office in 2015, and putting Thompson Center on the block appears to be a rare point of agreement with his nemesis, state House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Madigan this week said he still had “technical questions” about the logistics of a sale but supported the idea.
“It is my intention to work with the governor on developing a course of action for the Thompson Center that best serves the interests of the people of Illinois,” Madigan said in a statement.
At a news conference Friday, Rauner again touted the benefits of dumping a building he has characterized as out 0f date and inefficient. Rauner’s office has released renderings of a proposed 1,700-foot tower rising from the city block the 17-story Thompson Center now occupies.
“If this building were put to better use in the private sector, to build a building with much more retail, much more offices, maybe a hotel and multiple uses, it could generate a lot of tax revenue for the city of Chicago,” Rauner told reporters. “Because right now, this building generates no tax revenue for the people of Chicago.”
Rauner estimated a private development might put “$40 million, $50 million, maybe more” into the city’s coffers, and the site could be sold for as much as $220 million.
Designed by Chicago architecture legend Helmut Jahn, the Thompson Center opened in 1985. Its towering glass façade and soaring atrium made it a noteworthy building when it opened in 1985. But Rauner insists that it needs “hundreds of millions” in maintenance. And the wide-open atrium also makes it a lousy place to work, Rauner said.
“All the state employees that I’ve spoken with would rather be in a different place,” Rauner said, standing near the center of the food court in the atrium’s lower level.
“It’s noisy. It’s a little bit smelly, you can smell the restaurants upstairs.”
Rauner has also said keeping the building open would require extensive repairs. Jahn has suggested that the state preserve the building and add a 1,370-foot tower adjacent to it.