Gov. JB Pritzker revealed Wednesday a reboot of plans to save the Thompson Center, announcing that Google will take over the state’s former office hub downtown.
The search engine giant, with 2,000 employees in Chicago, will occupy the entire building. The state, in a deal involving developer Michael Reschke, will sell it to Google for $105 million. Reschke outlined the terms of the deal at a news conference.
In turn, the state will pay $75 million for the 115 S. LaSalle St. building, formerly the BMO Harris Bank building. Reschke, CEO of the firm Prime Group, will manage a renovation of the Thompson Center for Google.
“The state will own 50% more space on LaSalle Street at 50% less cost,” Reschke said.
Pritzker said the deal will save money for state taxpayers, certify Chicago’s appeal to the tech community and revitalize a section of downtown. The new agreement replaces plans announced in December for Reschke to buy most of the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., with the state retaining some space there.
Addressing Google executives at the news conference, Pritzker said, “Google is one of Chicago’s most important companies, You are an integral part of our community and you have invested in your future while investing in ours.” The governor said the agreement will allow the state to consolidate space downtown it currently leases, saving $1 billion over the next 30 years.
Karen Sauder, head of Google’s Chicago operations, said, “The way we see it, the Thompson Center is more than just a building. Establishing a presence here in the Loop allows us to get in on the ground floor of revitalizing and breathing new life into the very heart of this 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.”
Google kicked off the corporate march into an old meatpacking and industrial district west of the Loop when it occupied a gut-rehabbed former cold storage facility at 1000 W. Fulton Market in 2015. Other companies followed, as did hotels and apartment buildings.
State officials said $30 million from the Thompson Center sale will be in upfront cash. In acquiring 115 S. LaSalle, the state will own the westernmost tower of a three-building complex. The other two buildings use the address of 111 W. Monroe St. and will continue to be owned by a partnership of Reschke and Quintin Primo III, chairman of Capri Investment Group.
The 37-story 115 S. LaSalle building contains almost 592,000 usable square feet, state officials said. They said about 1,800 employees working at the Thompson Center and at leased offices downtown will be moved there. The state already has centralized about 2,000 workers in a building it owns at 555 W. Monroe St.
While the state will be responsible for renovating its new home, officials said the cost will be much less than the $148 million projected as its share of the work needed to modernize the Thompson Center, which opened in 1985 but suffered from the state’s neglect as the building aged.
The glass-enclosed design by the late architect Helmut Jahn and championed by the late Gov. James Thompson has long brought varied reactions. Some people hail it as a progressive approach to a government building, and others deem it dated and a waste of space. Cost-cutting moves during construction, experts say, resulted in a building that overheated even in the winter.
Reschke has said one of his main objectives is to replace the glass curtain wall and the heating and air conditioning systems.
At Wednesday’s announcement, Reschke said, “We fell in love with this iconic treasure that Helmut Jahn and Governor Thompson built almost 40 years ago. The building is unique and irreplaceable.” He said the atrium, soaring for 17 stories, has as much space as a basketball arena.