Thompson Center, luckily, shows up in Google’s search for office space

The sale bodes well for the Thompson Center, but also for a downtown that’s still staggering from the pandemic and needs all the help, energy — and new office workers — it can get.

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An Illinois Department of Central Management Services spokesperson confirmed Saturday that two potential buyers have submitted their plans to acquire the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center.

Tech giant Google picks the Thompson Center as its new Chicago home.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

We’re encouraged that the architecturally-daring James R. Thompson Center — seemingly consigned to the scrap heap just a few years ago — is now set to become the downtown home for tech giant Google.

In a deal announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a Wednesday morning news conference outside the Thompson Center, Google will buy the building from the state for $105 million, then move in 2,000 workers once rehab and restoration, not yet started, are complete.

“Google is one of Chicago’s most important companies,” Pritzker said. “You are an integral part of our community and you have invested in your future while investing in ours.”

It’s a win for both sides, and for our city.

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‘More than just a building’

The arrangement supersedes last year’s plan to sell the building to developer Michael Reschke, whose company, Prime Group, would have redeveloped and owned the Thompson Center, while the state would retain some offices there.

Under Google ownership, Reschke will stay on as the project’s developer. But he doesn’t leave empty-handed.

As part of the plan, the state will buy the former BMO Harris Building, 115 S. LaSalle St., from Prime Group for $75 million and relocate some state offices there. Pritzker said the state would consolidate space it currently leases downtown, a move that the governor said would save taxpayers $1 billion — over 30 years.

Google, meanwhile, has a good track record when it comes to old buildings. The company paid $1.9 billion in 2010 for the 3 million square foot former Port Authority building in New York. The company is the building’s largest tenant and has helped bring other tech companies to the area.

“The way we see it, the Thompson Center is more than just a building,” Karen Sauder, head of Google’s Chicago operations, said at the announcement.

“Establishing a presence here in the Loop allows us to get in on the ground floor of revitalizing and breathing new life into the very heart of this city,” she said.

This bodes well for the Thompson Center, but also for a Chicago downtown that’s still staggering from the pandemic and needs all the help, energy — and new office workers — it can get.

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