“The state of Illinois has bought a West Loop office building, a move that ought to erase any doubt it soon will fully vacate the historic but dilapidated James R. Thompson Center downtown.
“In a deal being announced this morning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office says the state has closed on the $73.3 million purchase of 555 W. Monroe, the former home of PepsiCo. The 18-year-old structure has 430,000 square feet of office space and has green certification for energy efficiency.
“More than 1,000—and potentially 1,400—of the 3,500 state workers now based in downtown Chicago eventually will relocate to the new facility, starting in April, according to Ayse Kalaycioglu, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which manages the state’s real estate needs.
“About 900 of the employees moving to 555 W. Monroe will be coming from the Thompson Center, leaving 1,300 in the structure named after the former governor who championed its construction and mourned its declining fortunes. But they won’t be there long, said Kalaycioglu and Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes in an interview late yesterday.
“The Thompson center is so old and dilapidated that “it makes no financial sense for the state to occupy (it),” Hynes said. Added Kalaycioglu, “We are continuing to evaluate . . . and look for other opportunities such as 555 W. Monroe.”
“A list of which agencies will move is not yet available, but Kalaycioglu’s department and the Capital Development Board will be included, while the secretary of state, treasurer and other constitutional offices are expected to stay at the Bilandic Building, across LaSalle Street from the Thompson Center.
“Officials have talked for years about selling the Thompson Center to a private developer to help shore up the state’s cash-short budget. Pritzker finally won that authority from the Legislature year, but faces a 2022 deadline for action.
“Hynes said a request for proposals for a developer is expected to be issued in April.
“Some preservationists and the Thompson Center’s designer, architect Helmut Jahn, have urged that it be renovated and repurposed, perhaps as part of a larger development. But Hynes and Kalaycioglu made it clear the state just wants out. They rejected comparisons to the state Capitol in Springfield, which, like the Thompson Center, features a large rotunda and lots of open, if wasted, space.
“‘It’s an apples and oranges comparison,’ said Hynes ‘The state Capitol is the state Capitol. (Thompson) is an office building. The state uses lots of office buildings.’ (Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/27/21)
Preservation Chicago respectfully disagrees. The Thompson Center was designed to be and serves as a second state capitol building in Chicago. The City of Chicago and Cook County have a strong and proud presence in Chicago at the City Hall and County Building. So too should the State of Illinois have a strong and proud presence in Chicago.
Thompson Center exodus begins as state buys West Loop offices; A new facility will house up to 1,400 workers as officials prepare to find a developer for the site of the run-down Randolph Street building, Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/27/21