Downtown Chicago needed a victory, especially after the losses of Boeing, Citadel and Caterpillar just months ago, and a victory is exactly what it got.
Illinois has finalized the long-awaited sale of the James R. Thompson Center to Google, Gov. JB Pritzker announced during a recent news conference, saving Illinois $326 million in deferred maintenance costs. Not to mention the $17 million per year it takes just to operate.
Pritzker kicked off the conference saying, “We’re saving taxpayers money. We’re growing high-paying jobs. We’re adding vitality to The Loop and improving the work environment for thousands of private and public sector employees. …Chicago and Illinois are open for business.”
First opened in 1985, Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center has been faced with both wonder and criticism, and the building’s expenses have drained Illinois’ resources, but Pritzker said the deal will save taxpayers nearly $1 billion over the next three decades, and Google will generate tax revenue for Chicago and bring more life to The Loop.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Google is solving two civic problems: (1) What to do about the expensive, and therefore, no-longer-wanted building, and (2) What to do to help The Loop, that even before COVID-19 saw an exodus of office tenants.
Everyone hopes Google will do for Downtown what it did for Fulton Market in 2015. Now, Google’s Head of Chicago Operations Karen Sauder sees similar potential to show businesses it’s an OK place to land.
“The way we see it, the Thompson Center is more than just a building,” Sauder said. “Establishing a presence here in The Loop allows us to get in on the ground floor of revitalizing and breathing new life into the heart of the city. Just as we’re proud of the role we played in turning Fulton Market into one of the most vibrant and energetic neighborhoods in the city, we have the opportunity to do it all over again here.”
Officials have revealed few details about Google’s renovation plans, but Sauder said its “iconic design” will be respected. Chairman and CEO of Capri — which will work on the renovations — said changes will be made to the building as energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable an inclusive as possible.
Renovations are expected to be completed in 2026.