Save the Thompson Center and Release its Creative Energy!

Save the Thompson Center and Release its Creative Energy!

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Preservation Chicago, NFP: Love your City Fiercely! started this petition to STATE OF ILLINOIS and

Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

Landmark the Thompson Center!

“Governor Pritzker has the opportunity, after years of neglect by his predecessors, to lead through the sale of the Thompson Center by giving it new life. 

Repurposing the building the right way could go beyond what the building ever was, making it better, more public, and a place where you want to work, stay overnight, live or just visit and feel good. 

Miracles and dreams can become real.”            (Helmut Jahn during 2020 interview)

The iconic postmodern Thompson Center in the heart of Chicago’s Loop will be sold either for demolition or adaptive reuse.

It was built for the people of Illinois, by the people of Illinois, to inspire the people of Illinois.

Designed by world-renowned architect Helmut Jahn to be Illinois’ “second state capitol building” in the state’s largest city, it sought to redefine the relationship between the citizens and their government with transparency, engagement, and energy.

Jahn's wildly exuberant James R. Thompson Center / State of Illinois building exceeded all expectations with a curvilinear façade, open plaza, and dazzling 17-story atrium designed to exhilarate and inspire. 

Resembling no other government office building, this spectacular masterpiece incorporated public amenities including shops, restaurants, atrium, plaza, theater, sculpture, and transit hub with the goal of generating vibrancy in Chicago's Loop.

Chicago's Loop theater district had been a dynamic, high-energy immersive experience with theaters, live music, hotels and restaurants, but by the 1980's this creative energy had largely vanished. Governor James Thompson challenged architect Helmut Jahn to design create a building that would breathe life and vitality back into the Loop.

But no matter how lofty the vision or bold the design, decades of bureaucratic inaction and post-September 11th security requirements left the building culturally dormant.

The State of Illinois is moving its government offices to a mundane conventional building and will sell the Thompson Center, so now is an opportunity to release the Thompson Center's original creative vision and spirit.  

Will this magnificent public building be demolished for a new non-descript high-rise? 

Or will a new owner finally realize the Governor Thompson's vision of a dynamic creative center overflowing with vibrancy and energy?

Live music, dance, arts and city festivals could be hosted daily on the plaza and year-round in the atrium, similar to the wildly successful Sony Center in Berlin also designed by Helmut Jahn.

Designated offices floors could become incubator for non-profits, arts organizations, start-up businesses, exhibit and gallery space.  Other floors could be populated with a hotel, apartments and small businesses. A gourmet food court and café dining in the atrium could create a dynamic piazza experience protected from the elements. All located at a major transit hub that would allow equal access to Chicagoans all across the city.

Now is the moment in time to finally embrace the vision of the James R. Thompson Center as vibrant, authentic, fountain of creative energy in the heart of Chicago’s Loop.

Along with a diverse team of preservation partners, we urge the City of Chicago to recognize the potential of this important building and designate the James R. Thompson Center as a Chicago Landmark to protect it from harm and encourage its creative reuse.  

Read more about the James R. Thompson Center at:

Time for a fresh look at plans to sell the Thompson Center; The state must face that it may not get $200 million for the building. And to increase its redevelopment possibilities, reusing the building — not tearing it down — should remain an option, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 4/12/21

Team Pritzker must get the Thompson Center plan right; A pandemic that has drained the Loop of much of its life and called into question future demand for office space has only intensified the challenge of reimagining this colossal white elephant, Crain's Editorial Board, 4/9/21

Newcity Editor's Letter: The Thompson Center, Brain Hieggelke, 4/29/21

The Most Endangered Building in Chicago [Thompson Center], Architecture w/Stewart Hicks [VIDEO]

Preservation Chicago's 2020 7 Most Endangered Article: James R. Thompson Center / State of Illinois Building

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