Given the current financial crisis Illinois is now facing, it should come as no surprise that Governor Rauner is looking for ways to liquidate inefficient and income-draining assets. One of the most obvious targets is the Thompson Center located at 100 W. Randolph. This 17-story open concept building was opened in 1985 at more than $80 million over budget. At the time it boasted a modern architecture with state of the art heating and cooling systems. However due to the massive amount of windows and the openness of the structure, it is very expensive to heat, and it creates a very noisy environment. Compounding the problem is that fact that there is $100 million in deferred maintenance, and relocating state employees to other offices would save the state up to $12 million annually. So, should it stay, or should it go?
No mater how you view it, the current building is not properly utilized. Some of the retail storefronts are out-dated. Due to the vibrancy of the current downtown Chicago market, the current use of the building is not the highest and best use. With the city’s high demand for office space, coupled with its strategic location (close to the theater district, and walking distance from Millennium and Grant parks), perhaps a mixed-use with a hotel, retail and office uses would be a better use of the site. Of course the value of the vacant land would have to be worth more than the current value plus demolition costs to justify starting over. Maybe there is a way to redevelop, while maintaining the positive aspects of the property. Preserving the open space dedicated to public art would be one way of preserving one of the centers lasting legacies.
Perhaps the existing building could be re-purposed. It would take someone with a bold vision, and high risk-aversion to pull this off. Ventilation and heating technology has come a long way in the thirty years since the building was unveiled. Perhaps the glass curtain wall could be changed to allow fresh air in, supplementing the existing ventilation system and saving costs. The building already seems amenable to mixed-uses. Re configuring the existing structure could include a hotel, indoor amusement park, shopping mall, concert venue, museum or even a casino.
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