Google may be Googling the Thompson Center

The search engine company says it is growing in Chicago, but it won’t speak directly to a report of its interest in the former state government hub in the Loop.

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A rendering of a proposed renovation of the James R. Thompson Center that was displayed during a news conference in December.

A rendering of a proposed renovation of the James R. Thompson Center that was displayed during a news conference in December.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

In a technological twist to the plans for a renovated James R. Thompson Center, search engine giant Google stoked speculation Wednesday that it could buy the 17-story building in the Loop.

Developer Michael Reschke struck a deal last year with Gov. J.B. Pritzker to buy most of the former state government building for $70 million and renovate it. The state would retain ownership of about 30% of the building for its offices.

A Google spokesperson would not confirm or deny a report by real estate data firm CoStar Group that Google is negotiating to buy the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., but issued a statement about the company’s need to expand in Chicago. CoStar said the deal is not done and could change.

“Chicago continues to be an important and growing hub for Google here in the Midwest. What started as a two-person outpost in River North has expanded to a two-building campus that’s home to nearly 2,000 employees in Fulton Market. As Google grows in Chicago, we’ll continue to explore opportunities to ensure our physical space meets the needs of local Googlers,” Google said in a statement.

Reached Wednesday, Reschke said he has had no contact with Google. “I don’t know where these rumors come from,” he said, adding the Thompson Center “is not for sale.” It is not known what Reschke’s ongoing role might be if Google becomes involved.

Reschke’s sales agreement with the state was completed in March but is not due to close until this summer. A spokeswoman for the Department of Central Management Services, which handles state property, said the closing is on schedule. She did not address questions about Google.

The agreement calls for Reschke, chairman of Prime Group, to begin a top-to-bottom renovation of building systems, reconfigure office space and add a new glass skin designed to better regulate the building’s temperature, a problem for occupants since the offices opened in 1985. The work could take two years.

Any expansion of Google in Chicago would be a counterpoint to recent news about companies such as Boeing and Citadel pulling headquarters out of the city. And an influx of its employees at the Thompson Center would boost the Loop’s LaSalle Street corridor, where activity diminished during the pandemic and anchor businesses such as Bank of America and BMO Harris left for other downtown locations.

Google has made transformative real estate moves here before. In 2015, it signaled the corporate rush westward from the Loop by moving into a rehabbed cold-storage warehouse at 1000 W. Fulton Market and since then has expanded into 210 N. Carpenter St.

Karen Sauder, head of Chicago operations for Google, said in a speech here on June 7 that the company plans to add workers with an emphasis on racial equity. “By 2025, we’ve pledged to hire an additional 10,000 employees across our offices in Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C. — and I’m happy to report that we’re already halfway there,” she told the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

Google did not make Sauder available for an interview.

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