Rauner administration details why Thompson Center needs to go

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CHICAGO-- Just 32 years old, the Thompson Center looks and feels like a relic. Governor Rauner wants to dump the space and his administration is now showing us why.

Across from City Hall sits a design enigma – The Thompson Center.

A dingy, 17-story building.

When you walk in you see architectural flare. But a closer look reveals a building that is rusting with areas held together by duct tape.

Despite its flaws, 2,200 people work here.

Michael Hoffman is the Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services and he said “It’s not a good working environment.”

The Thompson Center was constructed without offices in mind.

“You end up with things like what you see behind us which is  duct under underneath the floor, it’s kind of a troth where data and phone line, as you can see for one, the floor is unsteady, we’ve had ongoing complaints about that and the carpeting has had to be ripped up multiple times. It’s literally held together by duct tape.”

Workers say climate control is miserable. During the hot summer months, air conditioning provides little relief. “In the summertime as the sun comes through the massive amount of the single pane glass window, it can heat up this open area quite a bit.”

This is the assembly hall, though people don’t assemble here much anymore.

Hoffman said “When it opened it was pretty premier event space. But as you can see it is in disrepair and there are no funds to really bring it up to speed.”

This is the mechanical room--where the chillers pump an old refrigerant.

The loading area is not much better. Two vehicle elevators handle everything – and they are the building’s original elevators.

“If and when those elevators fail, we cannot get trash out of the building. We can’t move food supplies for our vendors in the atrium in the building.”

The state says it spends $3 million per year in emergency repairs.  Governor Rauner wants to sell the Thompson Center. He says the state could get $200 million for the prime real estate.  “If this building were put to better use in the private sector to build a large building with much more retail, much more offices, maybe a hotel and multiple uses that could generate a lot of tax revenue for the City of Chicago.”

In the meantime, this flawed money pit remains open with hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance.

Hoffman said “There’s no scenario that makes sense from our analysis  where you would keep this building in its existing form.”

So it needs to be completely redone?

“We believe so.”

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan says he will consider legislation requested by Governor Rauner to sale or lease the Thompson Center.  The Speaker moved his office out of the building years ago.