“Count the state of Illinois’ plan to line up a buyer for the James R. Thompson Center by the end of 2020 as another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A little-noticed provision in legislation the General Assembly passed during its abbreviated, pandemic-focused special session in late May and early June pushed back the timeline for the state to find a buyer for its controversial Loop headquarters by more than a year.
“The state now has until April 5, 2022, to reach an agreement with a buyer for the 1.2 million-square-foot glass-and-steel structure, though the legislature could grant another extension.
“When Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill in April 2019 to authorize the sale of the Helmut Jahn-designed building, Chicago was in the midst of a real estate boom. But COVID-19 has led to a significant slowdown in property sales, and the shaky U.S. economy is making developments difficult to finance.
“Chicago-area commercial property sales, including development sites, totaled almost $8.6 billion through October of this year, down 36.8% from the same period last year, according to real estate research firm Real Capital Analytics.
“‘A complicated project with a lot of challenges, the only way I’m going to do it right now is at a really low price, because I’ve got to put a lot of money into it,’ said Jim Costello, a senior vice president at Real Capital Analytics.
“Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner pushed for years to sell the building, and lawmakers even counted on $300 million in revenue from the proposed sale in the final state budget of his single term — a gimmick that was papered over by a surprise tax windfall in April 2019.
“While the Thompson Center has had its share of detractors and fans since opening in 1985, its location in the heart of the city’s central business district could ultimately prove enticing to developers. To the chagrin of preservationists, who consider the building an iconic example of postmodern architecture, state officials have said they have no preference whether new owners tear down the existing structure.
“While the state has had initial discussions, ‘ultimately, the purchaser will decide the planned use of the site and enter into an agreement with the city of Chicago and the CTA to maintain the operations of the Clark & Lake station,’ Williams said.” (Petrella & Ori, Chicago Tribune, 11/28/20)