In conjunction with its annual list of endangered buildings, Landmarks Illinois has released a series of renderings that reimagines Helmut Jahn’s James R. Thompson Center with enhanced public space, while playing up its potential for adaptive re-use with an addition of a super tower. Proposed by Jahn’s office in 2017, the super-tower is shown poised at the southwest corner of the structure, maximizing the Thompson Center’s zoning and revenue potential while minimizing the impact of the additional construction on the interior atrium, the most significant aspect of the building’s provocative design. The tower could accommodate office spaces, a hotel, residencies or a combination of all three.
Constructed to provide a visible state government presence in Chicago, the James R. Thompson Center, originally the State of Illinois Building, was lauded by critics, ordinary Chicagoans and users of the building when it was completed in 1985. The building was hyperactive, wildly over budget and required extensive retrofits in order for it to keep state employees from frying beneath the extensive plate glass and subdued red, white and blue paneling. Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has called for selling off the building and demolishing it numerous times, viewing the land the Thompson Center sits on as a more valuable commodity than the building itself.
The redevelopment of the building as proposed by Landmarks Illinois retains the use of the building as a nexus point for multiple CTA public transit lines, restores the exterior granite panels and complementary columns, and demonstrates how a creative developer could take advantage of the 20 percent federal historic tax credits via a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The James R. Thompson Center is making a repeat appearance on Landmarks Illinois’s Most Endangered Places in Illinois list for a second year in a row, one of only four sites in the organization’s history to be listed multiple times.