The state-owned James R. Thompson Center in Chicago will be renovated and sold to Google in a $105-million deal that assures the future of the oft-beleaguered yet iconic building in Chicago’s Loop. Illinois officials estimate the building needs about $148 million worth of work. 

After years of trying to unload the office building, designed by the late architect Helmut Jahn, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced the sale of the 1.2-million-sq-ft property at 100 W. Randolph Street on July 27. Google and JRTC Holdings, LLC have entered into a build-to-suit agreement for the redevelopment of the building, which Google intends to occupy upon completion of the renovation.   

Philip Castillo, managing director at Jahn, said in an email that the architecture firm founded by Jahn will be involved in the renovation of the building that opened as the State of Illinois Center in 1985. It was renamed in 1993 after the state's longest-serving governor, the late "Big Jim" Thompson.

“As a firm that understands the building and its potential better than anyone, Jahn continues to be involved in all phases of the design work in our role as the architect-of-record for the redevelopment of the James R. Thompson Center,” he said. 

“The redevelopment plans will continue as envisioned, but will be more tailored to Google’s program and needs,” he added. 

Some of the well-known elements of the building, such as its soaring atrium, where the sale was announced, will be retained, he said. 

The icon, also known for its post-modern style and curved glass design, has been controversial since shortly after it opened when there were complaints of noise, temperature variations, sun glare and other creature comfort issues. 

The Deal

Under the deal, the state will receive $30 million in cash and another property at 115 S. LaSalle Street, which is valued at $75 million, and is the former headquarters for BMO Harris Bank. It will house 1,800 state employees who now work at the Thompson Center and at other leased offices.  

Renovations to the interior and exterior of 115 S. LaSalle that dates from 1974 will require less investment from the state than the proposed $148 million in renovations needed at the Jahn building, according to state officials. 

Pritzker called the Thompson Center deal “transformative” in a statement.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference announcing the deal that the purchase is a milestone that “will reactivate a crucial part of the LaSalle Street business corridor.” 

Karen Sauder, president of Global Clients and Agency Solutions and site lead of Google in Chicago, said the company, which has been in Chicago since 2000, is looking forward to “thoughtfully updating the building to our high sustainability standards while respecting its iconic design."