The Thompson Center on the Verge of Survival?


A Progressive Developer Steps In


Updated version of Thompson Center Southeast view  ©Jahn


In a September 28th article on our website,, where we covered the Thompson Center competition sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Club, the stated purpose of the competition was to investigate possible designs that could re-imagine the building’s use. But the competition was also staged to highlight its precarious future in light of its pending sale by the owner, The State of Illinois Now that Chicago architectural landmark may not be facing the wrecking ball after all. Chicago’s architectural aficionados may still be holding their breath; but help appears to be on the way.


The State of Illinois announced in late October that it has opened exclusive negotiations with real estate developer Prime Group in a deal that the governor said would save taxpayers $800 million. The bid by the Prime Group included a statement that they would “honor the original design of the building.” According to articles in the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s, the only other bidder’s plans included razing the existing building and constructing a series of highrise structures in its place. The Prime Group has partnered with Jahn, the firm responsible for the original design. Shortly before the trgic death of its Principal, Helmut Jahn, the firm had already been investigating possible re-use solutions to the existing building. Now it would appear that their knowledge of the buidling will be put to good use in the reimagination process.


This news was greeted by preservationists, who had placed the building on the “endangered” list and now stated that they had hopes the building could still be landmarked. Some preliminary renderings portraying the appearance of the future building have been released. This could serve as a first step, which could well be a signal that new life is about to be injected into a storied edifice. .


Some preliminary renderings illustrating some of the welcome changes in appearance and function of the building have now been released. Can we read this as a signal that the Thompson Center may be here to stay?


Proposed atrium  ©Jahn


Proposed new entrance  ©Jahn


Updated version of Thompson Center Southwest view  ©Jahn


Updated grade level plan  ©Jahn