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Google In Talks To Buy One Of Chicago's Most Iconic — And Problem-Prone — Buildings

After years under threat of the wrecking ball, one of the Loop’s most architecturally unique buildings — the James R. Thompson Center — is reportedly being pursued by Google.

The James R. Thompson Center

The tech giant is in talks to buy the Helmut Jahn-designed 1.2M SF building at 100 West Randolph St., CoStar reported. Plans call for expanding its Chicago offices into a major portion of the 17-story building, set to soon undergo extensive renovations.

Less than a year ago, the 37-year-old Thompson Center was targeted for demolition. But this past December, The Prime Group announced plans to buy it for $70M in a deal expected to be completed this year.

It’s unknown whether Prime Group CEO Mike Reschke will flip the office building to Google or go forward with Prime’s $300M renovation plans, which include adding new offices, outdoor terraces and a luxury hotel on the upper floors.

A spokesperson from Google told CoStar the company will “explore opportunities to ensure our physical space meets the needs of local Googlers,” but did not confirm the talks. 

The cavernous Thompson Center is notorious for its high cost of heating and cooling, while decades of disrepair have also taken a toll. At the time of the Prime Group announcement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the deal the best one for taxpayers because it would allow the state to maintain a 30% ownership stake. 

The agreement between the city and Prime Group allows the city to eventually buy back 427K SF of offices to use once renovations are complete. The city is expected to make a one-time payment of $148M or pay $258M in rent over the next 30 years, at which point it will own its office space in the building. 

No details were immediately available on how Google would fit into this deal, but having the company buy into an area that has struggled with high office vacancy and low foot traffic since the pandemic could help revitalize the Central Loop area.  

Google, which has a Chicago workforce of nearly 2,000 people, moved its Chicago office from a nearby building in River North to Fulton Market, the company’s Midwest headquarters, in 2015. 

A 16-story Fulton Market expansion could also be in the works for the company at 400 North Aberdeen St., CoStar reported, but Google has yet to publicly confirm its plans.