Construction is slated to start next year on the rehabilitation of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago’s Loop, which will become a Google headquarters. The company unveiled plans Dec. 13 for the project that will retain a 17-story atrium, but replace the façade with new glass.

Alex Joseph, a spokesperson for Google, said the general contractor is Clark Construction. Chicago-based design firm Jahn, which was the building's original architect, is designing the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2024. 

As ENR reported previously, developers Michael Reschke and Quintin Primo purchased the 1.2-million-sq-ft structure for $105 million in 2022. Google is set to purchase the building, which first opened in 1985, once the renovations are complete in a few years.

Plans for the building's future look drew interest from the historic preservation community, which was concerned that the structure, which previously housed state offices, would be torn down.

Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, said her organization has reviewed Google’s plans.

“Overall, we see the reuse of this once-endangered building as a preservation success and a win for the Loop,” she said in a statement. "The building will largely be retained. While the curtain wall will be replaced, Landmarks Illinois recognizes the need to make historic buildings more energy efficient and adapted to the building's users today and in the future."

James R Thompson Center

The James R. Thompson Center will be rehabbed starting in 2024.
Photo by ajay_suresh via Wikimedia, license CC BY 2.0, photo was slightly cropped. 


In addition to maintaining the atrium, the plans call for redesigning a covered colonnade at the base of the building to allow for more food and beverage, retail and seasonal activities on the plaza.

The company plans to operate the center 24/7 on carbon-free energy by 2030, which will require the building’s facade and internal systems to be completely replaced.

The center, which had drawn complaints over the years from state employees for being either too hot or too cold, will include a new triple-pane glass exterior that will require less energy to heat and cool and modernize the look of the building, according to Google. 

The building’s heating and cooling systems will be replaced with high-efficiency systems and covered terraces will be added along three levels of the southeast perimeter to provide more natural light and access to green space.

Google has previously reimagined older buildings in other cities for its office spaces, including Pier 57 in New York City and Arnulfpost in Munich, and says it wants to honor the Thompson Center’s postmodern legacy.

“Not only is it [redeveloping older buildings] a sustainable way to create offices, but it also honors the history of the communities we call home,” the company said.

Clark Construction did not immediately reply to a request for comment.