CHICAGO, Ill. – As Governor Bruce Rauner continues to push the concept of selling the James R. Thompson Center, Illinois state government’s downtown Chicago epicenter, state Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, says that there are an undetermined amount of factors looming over the sale that the governor has not taken into consideration.
“It sounds good in sound bites to say that the sale of the Thompson Center will bring money to our state, but there are variables that the governor’s ostentatious plan do not take into consideration,” said Riley. “To sell this building for its estimated $300 million potential, it would require a huge zoning variance that the governor has not even cracked the shell on. You also have to take into consideration that one of Chicago’s busiest, and most profitable, CTA stations is located at the Thompson Center. To have this station close, or to have Chicago tax payers foot a dime more than they would otherwise on the bill for it, is completely out of line.”
Because of revenue issues in the state, deteriorating conditions of the building and a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $325 million, Rauner’s plan in October 2015 to sell the building and the city block it sits on did not come as much of a surprise. An issue lies in the fact that in order to take advantage of the possible gains from the building, the Thompson Center would require a significant change to zoning to increase the value from its current state, an estimated $90 to $110 million. The issue is only complicated more with the commitment from Emanuel to not agree to a sale unless the multilevel “L” station, a major hub for six CTA lines, would remain open during construction and leave Chicago tax payers with any more burdens.
“The bottom line is that not a dollar can be placed into state coffers until the complex situations like the CTA station, zoning variances, future uses, breaking long-term retail leases and other issues have been resolved,” said Riley. “We have to be sure to not let the glitz and glam of a potential $300 million gain blind us to the amplitude of heavy lifting to be done to make this anything more than a political ploy by the governor. I support positive revenues, but we simply cannot put the cart before the horse.”
Riley represents the 38th District, which includes Tinley Park, Hazel Crest, and other neighboring communities. For more information, please contact Riley’s district office at 708- 799-4364.