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Google Unveils First Look At Its Plans For Chicago's Thompson Center

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Google released new renderings and details of its plans to redevelop the James R. Thompson Center into its Chicago headquarters Wednesday, revealing it aims to maintain the historic building’s iconic design while making contemporary improvements.

A rendering of the reimagined Thompson Center. The building's signature 17-story atrium will remain.

The company will work with the building’s original architects at Jahn to help modernize the building while keeping its original character. The tech giant confirmed that the Thompson Center’s signature 17-story, light-filled atrium will remain. 

“When we set out to redevelop the Thompson Center with The Prime Group and Capri Investment Group, it was important to us that we honor the postmodern legacy of the building,” Karen Sauder, Google Chicago site lead and global clients and agency solutions president, said in a release. “Not only is it a sustainable way to create offices, but it also honors the history of the communities we call home.”

The colonnade at the base of the building will be redesigned to allow for an enhanced ground-floor experience, including opportunities for more food and beverage retail as well as seasonal activations of the plaza.

Construction activity at the Thompson Center will begin early next year, starting with fencing going up around the perimeter. 

To make the building more sustainable, Google pledged to upgrade it to a LEED Platinum, all-electric building when it bought the Thompson Center last year. 

The company will do so by replacing the building’s facade and internal systems. The new triple-pane glass exterior will improve the thermal performance of the building by requiring less energy to heat and cool, the company said in the release. Google will also replace outdated heating and cooling equipment with high-efficiency systems. 

Covered terraces along three levels of the southeast perimeter will offer new green spaces, and the new exterior will maximize natural daylight. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to see Google’s transformation and rejuvenation of the James R. Thompson Center as we continue to show global companies that Illinois is the place to be,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.

In July 2022, Google announced plans to purchase the 1.2M SF Helmut Jahn-designed building for $105M, pending completion of renovations. The company anticipates it will move into the building in 2026.

Commercial real estate stakeholders across the city are hoping Google’s move into the Loop will revitalize the struggling central business district, where vacancy hit nearly 21% in the third quarter and leasing activity dropped to its lowest level since Q1 2021, with less than 663K SF signed, according to a JLL report

“We look forward to stewarding the Thompson Center into the 21st century while preserving the iconic architectural form,” Sauder said in the press release. “These types of improvements take several years to complete; we’re excited about what this project symbolizes for the greater Chicago community and will share more about our plans in the future.”