Is Rauner Planning To Sell Thompson Center?

The Better Government Association has learned the Rauner administration is laying the groundwork to have the downtown building appraised.

Will Gov. Bruce Rauner sell the James R. Thompson Center, the post-modern Loop office building that serves as state government’s Chicago headquarters?

Rauner’s administration quietly issued a "request for information," or RFI, on March 23 for appraisal services for the mixed-use structure at 100 W. Randolph St.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services, or CMS, which Rauner oversees, issued the RFI asking vendors to respond by April 7 with information about "appraisal types," "pricing structure," "qualifications" and more.

The responses will help the department craft a formal solicitation for three appraisal services contracts – information from those appraisals will determine how much the 1.2 million-square-foot property is worth.

"The purpose of the establishment of the [fair market value] is to facilitate the potential sell of the property," the RFI says.

"The governor is empowered to dispose of property he deems to be a surplus," says Rick Tate, statewide facility manager for CMS. "First he has to take steps and one of those steps is to establish a fair-market value."

A Rauner spokeswoman would only tell a reporter via email, "The Administration is doing its due diligence in determining the value and best use of state assets, including the JRTC."

Rauner wouldn’t be the first governor to look at selling the glass-paneled building, designed by star architect Helmut Jahn.

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in 2003 he was prepared to sell the Thompson Center and other state-owned properties to help close a $5 billion budget deficit, but that plan never moved forward amid backlash about privatizing public assets.

Blagojevich had said he was open to selling the building outright or executing what’s known as a sale-leaseback deal, where the state sells the building and then rents back the space from the new owner.

State law requires three appraisals be obtained if the property is worth $5,000 or more, according to the RFI. The average of the three, plus appraisal costs, determines the fair market value; the building couldn’t be sold for less than that amount.

The 17-story building cost $172 million to develop. Completed in 1985, it is named after James Thompson, the state’s longest-serving governor.

News stories in recent years have noted the building’s condition has deteriorated because the state lacks money for upkeep and repairs. Complaints include ripped and worn carpeting, water leaks and even a bedbug outbreak.

The building includes offices for the governor, the Illinois attorney general and the Illinois secretary of state, among others.

If the Thompson Center sold it would be the latest high-profile building in Chicago to trade hands. The Blackstone Group recently paid $1.3 billion for the 110-story Willis Tower, a Chicago landmark formerly called the Sears Tower, according to published reports.

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at aschroedter@bettergov.org or (312) 821-9035.

About the Author
  • Andrew Schroedter

    Andrew Schroedter was a senior investigator at the BGA, responsible for covering, among other topics, criminal justice, municipal finance and city and suburban government. His investigative projects were featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, CBS2, NBC5, among others, and been referenced by The New York Times, The New Yorker, CNN, The Economist, National Public Radio and more.