Afternoon Edition: Dec. 15, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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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.

Gov. Pritzker has picked a development team that will take over the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, favoring a plan that would preserve the building.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 65 degrees. Tonight will be very windy, with a low around 41 degrees and a 90% chance of precipitation. A high wind warning has also been issued for the Chicago area, with gusts as high as 75 mph. Tomorrow will be sunny and breezy with a high near 45 degrees.

Top story

Pritzker opts for saving Thompson Center

Gov. J.B. Pritzker picked a development team that will take over the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, favoring a plan that would preserve the 17-story building.

Pritzker chose a proposal from a group led by Michael Reschke, chairman of Prime Group, a longtime developer in the region. His plan calls for preserving the building as a mixed-use property, with the state retaining about a 30% ownership.

In a move sure to be hailed by preservationists, Reschke will pay $70 million upfront and the state will retain some offices in the Thompson Center.

State officials had received proposals from two groups vying for the building.

Reschke said he expects the sale to close within six months and renovations to start within a year. He said the project, a “gut renovation” including a new glass curtain wall and mechanical systems, should take two years from start to finish, with a budget of $280 million.

Reschke said members of the development group initially “were a bit cynical, because of the reputation the building had. But we took a very hard, conscientious look at the opportunity to make further investment in LaSalle Street, for the benefit of local businesses, the city and the state.”

The former home of state government in Chicago opened in 1985 and was designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Helmut Jahn, who died in May. Preservationists have argued the Thompson Center, with its soaring atrium and generous public space, is a postmodern landmark and keeping it would honor Jahn’s contributions in his hometown.

Detractors regard the design as dated and inefficient. Pritzker was in their ranks. His administration has repeatedly called the building “oversized, outdated and expensive,” estimating it would require $325 million in repairs. Today, he bumped up that estimate to more than half a billion dollars. The state skimped on maintenance over the years and experts said it cut corners during construction, such as rejecting double-pane glass for single-pane.

David Roeder and Mitchell Armentrout have more on Pritzker’s plan for the Thompson Center.

More news you need

  1. Ald. Carrie Austin, Chicago’s second-most senior alderperson, collapsed in her seat at today’s City Council meeting, prompting a brief recess, followed by a prayer for her healing. After the Council chambers were cleared, Austin was evaluated by Chicago Fire Department paramedics and taken out of the chambers conscious and transported to a hospital.
  2. Before Austin’s medical emergency, the Council today approved a $2.9 million settlement for Anjanette Young, who was the victim of a 2019 botched police raid that forced her to stand naked and humiliated before a dozen police officers. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has acknowledged that “a lot of trust in me” has been “breached” by her Law Department’s efforts to conceal video of the raid.
  3. The city’s alderpeople also agreed today to lift Chicago’s ban on sports betting —and impose a 2% tax on gross revenues from it. The move paves the way for sportsbooks to open in and around Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, the United Center and Wintrust Arena.
  4. Special Prosecutor Dan Webb today called for the release of his full report into the controversial handling of Jussie Smollett’s case by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office. Webb, who was appointed in 2019 to probe the case and how it was handled by Foxx’s office, made his request ahead of a hearing set for Monday.
  5. Illinois’ second confirmed case of COVID-19’s Omicron variant has been found in suburban Cook County, public health officials announced today. The person, who had received two vaccine doses, wasn’t suffering from any symptoms at the time the variant case was detected yesterday, officials said.
  6. The Lightfoot administration is planning to pump more than $400 million into its own community safety plan that targets 15 areas it considers to be the most violent. The plan was unveiled more than a year ago and has produced few results so far, Sun-times data shows.
  7. Illinois will begin accepting applications for a chunk of $45 million in grant money generated through taxing cannabis sales. The money will target residents adversely affected by disinvestment, violence and drug war-era policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color, Gov. Pritzker said during a news conference today.

A bright one

Ravenswood sculpture doubles as pollinator, bringing eco-diversity to a manufacturing hub

Artists Janet Austin and Emily Moorhead-Wallace want their art to not only catch the attention of residents but have a functional, environmental purpose. Their latest sculpture doubles as a pollinator, meeting the optimal dwelling needs of indigenous pollinators, solitary bees and other insects.

“In the urban environment, educating people about pollinators as well as giving a place for those pollinators to nest creates the best habitat overall for people and for the wildlife,” Moorhead-Wallace said.

It is made of corten steel, which can rust outdoors without deteriorating. “This will last longer than we will be alive,” Austin said.


Artist Emily Moorhead-Wallace fills up her sculpture, “Pollinator Habitat,” with wood and other natural materials that will attract bees and other insects.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The structure at Ravenswood and Sunnyside avenues carries a “goofiness” in its tree shape, Austin said, and features etchings of butterflies, squirrels, bees and bunnies. The style of the etchings are borrowed from Craftsman architecture, which is popular in the neighborhood.

The “Pollinator Habitat” is the final installation for the new Ravenswood Sculpture Garden. Established by the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and Community Council, the sculpture garden is a series of six public art pieces sprawled across Ravenswood’s industrial corridor.

A manufacturing hub during the industrial boom in the early 1900s, artists and businesses have since laid down roots in the neighborhood and the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce wanted to reflect that with the project.

Sneha Dey has the full story behind the sculpture here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s the best Christmas movie of all time? Tell us why.

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: Is “Elf on the Shelf” friend or foe to parents during the busy holiday season?

Here’s what some of you said…

“That thing is creepy. We’ve never done it at our house.” — Jenny Morales

“Not our thing. If it brings you joy, more power to you.” — Joe Medearis

“Just another thing to do, but might be worth it if your children revere the thing. To our family, it’s more of a Creeper in a Sleeper — and not allowed anywhere near our children. Being watched by a toy is creepy.” — Christine Bock

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