“‘The fact that the state was opposed to its nomination really shows that politics has entered the equation,’ Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago told Urbanize. ‘It’s unfortunate in a city that’s so well known for its architecture. We shouldn’t leave it up to personal choice, politics, or whether or not a building has fallen into disrepair to determine if it should be preserved or demolished.'” (Koziarz, Urbanize Chicago, 6/25/21)
“A state advisory board on historic sites today broke ranks with Illinois state agencies over the issue of seeking national landmark status for the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.
“By a 10-to-2 vote, the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council voted to nominate the postmodern office building to the National Register of Historic Places, although two states agencies oppose the nomination.
“Gov. Pritzker’s office wants to sell the colorful 17-story building that has been derided as functioning poorly since it opened in 1985. Preservationists and others see getting the building a spot on the National Register as a step toward unlocking preservation tax credits that would make rehabbing the building financially feasible, preventing demolition of one of the late architect Helmut Jahn’s most dramatic buildings.
“In May, John Murphy, whose firm’s $140 million redevelopment of the old Cook County Hospital included in its financing stack about $27 million in tax credits, told Crain’s, ‘but for the tax credits, the rehab would not have happened.’
“Without the possibility of tax credits, potential buyers may find that only demolition is cost-effective on the site, Murphy and Lisa DiChiera, director of advocacy at Landmarks Illinois, both told Crain’s in May.
“It’s a race against the clock, as the National Trust process could take several months and Illinois officials have set Aug.16 as the deadline for offers on the 1.2 million-square-foot building that sits on three acres on Randolph Street.
“‘I wouldn’t say they broke ranks,’ said Jonathan Solomon, a partner in Preservation Futures, the group that is shepherding the nomination. ‘They’re an independent commission, and I would say we’re thrilled that they didn’t bow to political pressure’ from the two agencies.
The historic sites board endorsed the nomination despite being told by its parent agency, the state historic preservation office, that the office does not support the nomination. This could mean that the historic preservation office declines to make the nomination.
If so, Solomon said, the coalition of advocacy groups that have been working on the nomination could decide to take it to the national register on their own, without state support. The coalition includes Solomon’s group, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago and others.
“‘We are certain that ultimately the building will be listed on the National Register,’ Solomon told Crain’s. ‘It’s just a matter of how much more obstruction we face.'” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/25/21)
Historic sites group breaks ranks with state officials over Thompson Center; The advisory board endorsed nominating the postmodern building to the National Register of Historic Places, against the wishes of two state agencies. A listing on the register could unlock tax credits that make preservation affordable, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/25/21
State officials back Thompson Center nomination to National Historic Register; The surprise vote could allow developers to access tax incentives to save the Helmut Jahn-designed structure, Jay Koziarz, Urbanize Chicago, 6/25/21
Reprieve from wrecking ball? State panel backs historic listing for Thompson Center, adding incentives to preserve it; The Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council takes a position at odds with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and two state agencies. Listing the building on the national trust would not bar demolition, but it would make an owner who preserves it eligible for some tax breaks, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/25/21
The Thompson Center, a blend of patriotism and Postmodernism, should be a Chicago landmark, The Thompson Center brought the light in, literally, to state government. It let the people see power and it forced power to see the people, Elizabeth Blasius and Jonathan Solomon, Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed, 5/14/21
Architect Helmut Jahn’s death reignites debate over sale of his renowned — and reviled — Thompson Center; Advocates for preserving and reusing the James R. Thompson Center plan to renew their push for landmarking it in light of the pending sale and the architect’s death. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it “was a building that never lived up to his creative genius,” Rachel Hinton, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/10/21
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, Justin Laurence, Block Club Chicago, 5/26/21
Time for a fresh look at plans to sell the Thompson Center; The state must face that it may not get $200 million for the building. And to increase its redevelopment possibilities, reusing the building — not tearing it down — should remain an option, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 4/12/21
Team Pritzker must get the Thompson Center plan right; A pandemic that has drained the Loop of much of its life and called into question future demand for office space has only intensified the challenge of reimagining this colossal white elephant, Crain’s Editorial Board, 4/9/21
Alderman seeks Thompson Center zoning change to tee up potential sale; The move would clear the way for a buyer to redevelop the Loop property with at least 2 million square feet of new construction, Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business, 3/23/21