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Thompson Center Won’t Be Sold This Year — Blowing $300M Hole In State Budget

The building with its salmon pink and baby blue color scheme is beloved by preservationists, who are breathing a sigh of relief.

Gov. Bruce Rauner outside the Thompson Center in 2015.
David Matthews / DNAinfo
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DOWNTOWN — The Thompson Center will not be sold this year, a report from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office acknowledged — blowing a $300 million hole in this year’s state’s budget.

The Illinois Economic and Fiscal Policy Report from the governor’s office revealed that the state’s “projected revenues no longer assume the receipt of $300 million of non-recurring revenues from the anticipated divestiture of the James R. Thompson Center.”

Despite the state budget’s reliance on the revenue from the sale, a new proposal for the soaring structure at 100 W. Randolph St. in the heart of the Loop named after Gov. Jim Thompson and designed by German American architect Helmut Jahn never materialized.

The building with its salmon pink and baby blue color scheme is beloved by preservationists. In September, Preservation Chicago rallied outside the Thompson Center and urged state officials to allow Chicago officials to landmark the building and scrap plans to sell it to the highest bidder.

Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller said he was pleased that the state’s budget no longer counts on funds from the sale.

“We can breathe a little sigh of relief,” Miller said.

Miller said he was hopeful that Gov-elect. JB Pritzker will preserve the building.

“I hope the governor-elect will be sympathetic to the fact that we don’t have to sell our great buildings and works of art,” Miller said. “It is a fine building worth saving.”

A representative of Pritzker’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rauner first called to sell the Thompson Center in 2015, saying the 17-story postmodern office building that opened in 1985 is “ineffective,” “inefficient” and “in disrepair.” A 2017 estimated pegged the cost of repairing the building at $326 million.

In January 2017, Rauner’s office released a conceptual study by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture to show what the Thompson Center site would look like with three new towers, or just one standing 1,700 feet tall, or more than 200 feet taller than Willis Tower.

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday declined to comment on the about face by the Rauner administration.

In June, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) said he had not seen a new proposal for the Thompson Center, but noted that getting $300 million for the property “could be a stretch” since it assumes city officials would approve a far denser development than currently permitted and that the Downtown office real estate market remains red-hot.

Reilly did not return a message seeking a response about the report from the Rauner administration Tuesday.


In May 2017, Emanuel said he would block the sale of the Thompson Center until he was certain that Chicago taxpayers won’t get “stuck with” the $80 to $120 million tab for rebuilding the massive CTA station at the state building.

The state budget approved by the General Assembly for the 2019 fiscal year showed a surplus on paper of about $14 million.

However, the report from the governor’s office estimates that spending will exceed current resource projections by $546 million.

That deficit includes as much as $500 million to cover step raises due to thousands of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees under the union’s last contract, which expired at the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

However, that expense could be as low as $170 million, depending on the the resolution of a years-long court challenge, according to the governor’s office.

The issue is now back in front of the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which is weighing both whether an impasse occurred and how much step pay is owed, after an appellate court decision in October.