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Veteran developer takes Thompson Center challenge in stride

During 40 years of work in the Chicago area, Michael Reswchke has tackled many major projects and survived market downturns.

Michael Reschke speaks to reporters at Wednesday’s Thompson Center announcement with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Michael Reschke, a Chicago developer for 40 years, could find himself in the public eye like never before for taking on the James R. Thompson Center.

He said it’s a unique and exciting challenge, but not an intimidating one. Reschke said the $280 million budget for renovating the building doesn’t faze him.

Reschke has had bigger projects and many ups and downs in commercial real estate, including a foreclosure suit this year involving 208 S. LaSalle St., a building he has redeveloped. Reschke said he expects the suit to be settled soon. He’s always bounced back.

Asked what project he’s most proud of, Reschke, chairman of Prime Group, without hesitation pointed to the office tower at 77 W. Wacker Drive, which opened in 1992. He brought in renowned Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill for the design. “If you go into that beautiful lobby today, you’d swear it was brand new. It’s the most gorgeous lobby in the city,” he said.

Also with Bofill, Reschke spearheaded the Citadel Center office building at 131 S. Dearborn St., which opened in 2003.

In recent years, he’s shifted to hotels, putting a JW Marriott into 208 S. LaSalle St. and a Residence Inn at 11 S. LaSalle St. Reschke has been hired to build a Riu hotel at 150 E. Ontario St. And he’s preparing to start construction on a warehouse in Huntley.

His bid for the Thompson Center reflects his abiding interest in the LaSalle Street commercial corridor. The pandemic and corporate relocations have hurt its prospects, but Reschke said it will come back.

“Next year, I think 80% to 90% of the people will be back in their offices,” he said.

“Markets go up and down. I’ve probably been through three or four major cycles.”

Over the years, Reschke tried to launch marquee projects downtown but ended up selling the properties to the eventual developers.

At age 66, Reschke said the two year-plus timetable of the Thompson Center project suits him. “I’m not interested in 20-year projects anymore,” he said.

Reschke emphasized that state government’s former hub in the Loop will need improvements from new insulated glass inside and out to a replacement of its antiquated heating and air conditioning.

“This isn’t necessarily a historic preservation,” he said. “We’re saving the building but making a lot of necessary and important changes. We’re saving the patient, but the patient will have new skin, and new guts.”