Google remains mum as rumors of a future move into Chicago’s Thompson Center swirl

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Google remains mum as rumors of a future move into Chicago’s Thompson Center swirl

Inside the Thompson Center's highly photogenic atrium. (R Boed/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Following the release of an exclusive report earlier week from real estate data firm CoStar Group claiming that Google is in negotiations to buy Chicago’s iconic James R. Thompson Center, the key parties involved are remaining tight-lipped.

As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Silicon Valley­–headquartered tech behemoth did not confirm or deny the validity of the report when pressed. A spokesperson for the State of Illinois’ Department of Central Management Services, which oversees state-owned properties including the Thompson Center, did not respond to questions regarding Google potentially being the next tenant of the exuberant postmodernist civic office building designed by the late Helmut Jahn.

exterior view of a futuristic glass building in a city, the thompson center
Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center at 100 West Randolph Street. (Rainer Viertlbock/Courtesy CAC)

While not speaking directly to its potential interest in the Thompson Center, Google did provide the Sun-Times with a statement emphasizing that it is indeed looking to expand its already sizable presence in Chicago:

“Chicago continues to be an important and growing hub for Google here in the Midwest. What started as a two-person outpost in River North has expanded to a two-building campus that’s home to nearly 2,000 employees in Fulton Market. As Google grows in Chicago, we’ll continue to explore opportunities to ensure our physical space meets the needs of local Googlers,” Google said in a statement.

One person who did respond to queries regarding the potential sale of the 17-story Loop landmark to Google is developer Michael Reschke, whose Prime Group won the bid to buy a majority of the so-called “Postmodern People’s Palace” at 100 West Randolph Street for $70 million last December, seven months after the state put it up for sale. An agreement ironed out with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker that mandates the developer carry out an expansive renovation of the aging, notoriously energy-inefficient structure. As part of the deal with Prime Group, the State of Illinois would retain 30 percent of the 1.2 million-square-foot building for administrative offices.

“I don’t know where these rumors come from,” Reschke told the Sun-Times, adding that the building “is not for sale.”

Although Reschke’s sale agreement with the state was finalized back in March, it is not expected to close until sometime this summer. Prime Group has previously announced it would invest $300 million in overhauling the building, including renovating its offices, creating outdoor terraces, and potentially adding a luxury hotel to the property. The intergalactic edifice’s would also get an all-new glass exterior. A preservation-focused design ideas competition presented last year by the Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club yielded a crop of idiosyncratic visions for the imperiled structure. (Indoor water park, anyone?). The fate of the basement food court remains unknown.

While a finalized redevelopment plan for the Thompson Center has yet to emerge, what has been revealed so far has drawn some criticism due to the fact that it appears to strip the building of much of its far-out character—still, the fact that the it will be left standing and modernized has been heralded as a win for preservationists considering there was the very real possibility that the building would have been razed and replaced with a supertall tower.

As noted in CoStar’s report, which credited “people familiar with the deal” for the juicy scoop, it is unknown if Reschke intends to flip the property to Google once the sale closes this summer or if Prime Group plans to continue with its redevelopment plan for Google.