ILLINOIS GOVERNOR RAUNER ANNOUNCES STATE’S PLAN TO SELL CHICAGO’S POSTMODERN ICON. (Photo by Rainer Viertlboeck) Hot on the heels of round table discussions of the preservation of Postmodern monuments at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. One of Chicago’s most iconic and controversial Postmodern landmarks finds itself on unsure footing. The James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn and constructed in 1985, was the site of a press conference held by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to announce the proposed sale of the building. According to Rauner the building is “ineffective” as an office space for state government, and was “just not useable for much of anything.” Standing in the grand circular public atrium, Rauner focused on the financial burden of the building and the financial possibilities of razing the structure. According to the Governor the building has a deferred maintenance bill of over $100 million, and costs the state upwards of $12 million in operating costs every year. Conversely he speculated that a new development could produce 8,000 new construction jobs and $20 million a year in tax revenue. His comments on the architecture of the building were limited except to say it would “not cost much to take down.” He left the judgement to of the buildings aesthetic to the “eye of the beholder.” Having been previously notified by the Governor’s office of the impending sale, architect Helmut Jahn responded in writing on Tuesday. Jahn was critical of the subsequent administrations since that of Governor James R. Thompson, the original client and building namesake, for not upholding the “vision… of building a symbol for the openness and transparency of the state government, an active urban center, and a lively urban and public place.” In his letter, Jahn seemed resigned to the fact that there was little chance the state government would save the building. Instead he optimistically offered a path forward for the building through repurposing. He stated, “This requires upgrades to the retail and foodservice, marketing the large floor plates to innovative tech-companies…adding 24 hour uses… making it the most exciting place in the city.” In the past, other possible reuse plans have been put forward for the building to little avail, including a proposed casino. Governor Rauner’s hope is to sell the site within the year to the highest bidder in a public auction. Considering the building's location and access to public transportation, having multiple train stops in and under the building, it is expected to fetch a large sum. With that said, government land has not always found the anxious buyers it anticipates in Chicago. The South Loop’s U.S. Post Office being a case in point. And though the final story has not been written about this intensely maligned building, it is looking as though the city may soon be losing a large interior public space of architectural significance.
Posts tagged with "Bruce Rauner":
Illinois’ new Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is an old finance buddy of Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But the two are due for some awkward wine club outings and vacations to Montana judging by the rhetoric Rahm’s slinging towards Springfield. Deep cuts from the austerity-minded, businessman-turned-politician in the governor’s mansion have left major Chicago developments in limbo, including The 606, an elevated park located on the Bloomingdale Trail, the renovation of the Uptown Theater, and continued improvements to the Chicago Transit Authority’s ‘El’ trains. The 606’s first phase is still on track to open this summer, but future phases are in trouble.
While speculation around the Barack Obama Presidential Library continues to swirl, plans for one of the project's four potential sites just became a bit clearer. The University of Chicago, where the President taught law, made public this week new renderings and details of their bid for the nation's 14th such library, trotting out sunny images that show the economic development potential of investment in the South Side areas surrounding Washington Park. The University of Chicago is among four finalists selected to vie for the library, whose governing nonprofit is expected to deliver a decision later this year. (Hawaii, New York City, and the University of Illinois Chicago also submitted proposals in December.) They proposed two sites, according to the Chicago Tribune: one in western Jackson Park, bounded by South Stony Island Avenue to the west, South Cornell Avenue to the east, East 60th Street to the north and East 63rd Street to the south; the other in western Washington Park and 11 acres outside of it, stretching as far west as South Prairie Avenue, and encompassing the Garfield Green Line stop. Both areas include land not owned by the University, which an anonymous source close to the deliberations previously told the Tribune could make the committee “hesitant to commit” to the plans. The sites each measure in excess of 20 acres, but only a fraction of that is slated for the library itself and accompanying structures. Nonetheless some open space advocates have accused the proposal of cannibalizing park land. Charles A. Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post lamenting, “we still have to deal with retrograde thinking that views parks as dumping grounds and places to put 'stuff.'” Washington Park, which borders the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, the designers of New York City's Central Park. But Susan Sher, who is leading the the University of Chicago's library bid, told the Tribune's Melissa Harris it's common for such projects to include existing park space. “When you look at the possibilities and the criteria of having enough space for the legacy of a major historical figure, you can't just plop it in the middle of a shopping center,” she said. The University's hometown competitor, UIC, proposed a park that would bridge the Eisenhower Expressway, as well as economic development and community resources for underserved West Side areas. While UIC's proposal is more straightforward in its ownership, it also faces obstacles. Illinois' new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, is expected to appoint a new chancellor of the public university system, which could sow uncertainty about the institution's library plans. Despite the new images and site boundaries, plans for the hotly anticipated library project remain unclear. In addition to selecting a host institution, the library foundation committee will also need to hire an architect, who will ultimately decide on the library's form and exact location. The plans newly made public by the University of Chicago are scant on details for that reason, although they do allude to an "education corridor" along 63rd Street, and a "cultural ribbon" that would connect Washington Park with a "renewed Jackson Park."