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City Council Approves Thompson Center Zoning Change, Paving The Way For A Sale

The rezoning of the Helmut Jahn-designed building allows for a high-rise to be built at the property, as state leaders try to sell it to a private developer.

The James R. Thompson Center
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — With no fanfare, the City Council unanimously approved a zoning change Wednesday that could make it easier for state leaders to sell the Thompson Center.

Alderman signed off on a proposal to revert the property at 100 W. Randolph St. to its original zoning. Former Ald. Burton Natarus downzoned the property in the ’80s.

Gov. JB Pritzker recently announced his intention to sell the building designed by the late Helmut Jahn and named after former Gov. Jim Thompson. The rezoning allows for a high-rise to be built at the site. Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said Tuesday he introduced the zoning change at Pritzker’s request.

“This amendment does not approve a new project, nor does it allow for the demolition of the current property,” Reilly said at this week’s Zoning Committee meeting.

The hulking steel structure, opened in 1985, is home to state offices, a basement food court and an adjacent transit center.

Jahn died earlier this month and the potential sale of one of his most notable works is sure to set off preservation efforts. Landmarks Illinois is pushing to have the Thompson Center added to the National Register of Historic Places as a way to save it, according to the Tribune.

The state put out a request for proposals for the sale of the building earlier this month. Although it’s possible the building could be adaptively reused, state officials say it needs hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs, according to the Sun-Times.

“Selling the property provides a unique opportunity to maximize taxpayer savings, create thousands of union jobs, generate millions of dollars in real estate taxes to benefit the City of Chicago and spur economic development,” Pritzker said.

Proposals to purchase the building are due in August and the developer must commit to keeping the CTA station agreement with the city, according to the Sun-Times.

Reilly said he previously spoke with Jahn about the building’s future and would encourage potential developers to consider conserving the structure. But the “nearly $17 million” in annual maintenance and operating costs to taxpayers make unloading the building from the state’s budget a top priority. 

“Redeveloping this site, whether it’s by preservation, adaptive reuse or new construction would end its tax-exempt status and bring this entire city block onto the city’s tax rolls,” Reilly said. 

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