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State gets 2 bids to buy the James R. Thompson Center; here’s what’s next

Two potential buyers have submitted plans to acquire the Helmut Jahn-designed building that preservationists have pushed to save from demolition.

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.
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.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois is one step closer to selling the James R. Thompson Center.

Two potential buyers for the Thompson Center, the state government’s former base in the Loop, have emerged. Both groups submitted proposals to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, an agency spokesperson said Saturday.

But what’s next for the 17-story building known for its all-glass sloping facade and domed skylight remains a mystery. Details of the two proposals weren’t revealed, thanks to a state law that allows officials to keep the submissions concealed until a winning plan is picked.

State officials have begun to evaluate the proposals “to determine which is in the best interest of the state and its taxpayers,” the spokesperson said.

One of the bids is expected to be picked by the end of the year, with a purchase agreement to follow by February and the sale to close by April.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been clear about his plans to sell the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center, a building his administration has deemed “oversized, outdated and expensive.” He signed a bill in 2019 to begin efforts to sell the building.

Pritzker’s move sparked outrage from preservationists who’ve called Thompson Center “iconic” and said it deserves landmark protection and creative ideas for reuse.

In September, the Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club picked the winners of a global design competition for the Thompson Center. The top submissions transformed the steel frame, red and blue accents building into a waterpark, a “vertical Loop” of homes and commercial space with a rooftop vegetable garden, or a prototype building school.

Organizers of the contest hoped the results might influence discussions about whether the Thompson Center can be saved.

Contributing: David Roeder