This week came sad confirmation of my complaint from 2010 that the State of Illinois’ stewardship of its major buildings amounts to slow-motion vandalism. Crain’s columnist Greg Hinz dropped by the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, and found duct-taped carpet, corroding metal, leaking ceilings. The ex-gov himself calls it a scrap-heap. Concludes Hinz, “If you wanted to pick a metaphor for the sad shape of Illinois and its government, you couldn't do better — really, I should say worse — than to stop by . . . the seat of state government in Illinois' largest city.”
Forget its looks. The building was ill-conceived, its design being badly matched to its purpose. It was poorly outfitted as well; it has cost the state uncounted millions more in energy costs and HVAC retrofits than it saved by installing cheap windows. Rehabilitate it and you still have a bad building. (That was not the case with the Stratton in Springfield. Replace the cheap fittings and you would have had a perfectly useful office building, which can never be the case with the Thompson.)If the building has resale potential, it should be sold, although I expect developers would want it only for the land. (Its lack of usable interior space makes it as unfit for a hotel as for an office building.) Take the money and rehab any of the dozens of Loop towers being rendered redundant by the latest boom in Class A office space. Destroying a bad building to keep a good one standing is the best conclusion of a bad business.