Monday, April 8, 2019

Thompson Center sale – would “Big Jim” wind up losing his tribute bldg.?

I have mixed views over what ought to become of the building that already has had more than a third of a century of life – the James R. Thompson Center that is the physical Chicago home of Illinois state government.
A significant Chicago intersection for many layers of government
I know some officials think that the sale of the downtown Chicago real estate would produce revenue too essential to balancing out state government’s finances that would make it too irresponsible to even think of retaining the facility.

YET THE IDEA of now having to find office space for all the state agencies that are based here elsewhere in Chicago make me think it may be irresponsible to abandon their current home.

I know of the ideologues of downstate Illinois who take great offense that Springfield, the state capital, is considered less important for some state agencies than Chicago. But it seems like it could be reckless to sell off the state facility just to appease those ideologues who can’t accept that Springfield is essentially a city built on a 19th Century scale (Abraham Lincoln would recognize much of it) even though the world has progressed far into the 21st Century!

This debate is going to perk up in coming years, what with Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing the bill into law that creates a two-year process that would enable someone else to bid on, and buy, the square-block property at Clark and Randolph streets.
Old and new state buildings across the street

The prime real estate located right across the street from City Hall/County Building and also from the old State of Illinois Building (which long ago was converted into the Bilandic Building home of the Supreme Court of Illinois along with the appellate courts for the Chicago area).

AND ALSO KITTY-corner from the Daley Center building, which serves as the Cook County courthouse – at least for civil cases.

All of which makes Clark and Randolph an all-important intersection for the happenings of politics and government at the city, county and state levels.
What becomes of the Dubuffet? Photos by Gregory Tejeda
A presence that would be lessened quite a bit if officials were to decide to let something else become the purpose of the building north of Randolph and west of Clark streets.

As much as some people like to denigrate the building’s appearance and style, I have to admit to kind of getting a kick out of its appearance – even when one tries to ridicule its salmon and sea blue color scheme.

OR, AS I remember, once, someone tried to claim that the Jean Dubuffet sculpture “Monument with Standing Beast” was really nothing more than an AIDS virus trying to infest the body politic. Which probably says more about the mini-mind of the critic than it does anything about the structure itself.

It is interesting that this was an idea that both governors Rod Blagojevich and Bruce Rauner tried to push through the process – although it now has the potential to become a reality under Pritzker.

I just can’t get past the idea that state agencies still need a physical presence in Chicago – unless we’re trying to create the image that state government is completely irrelevant to the existence of the Second City.

A concept that would be totally insipid for anybody to try to spew – no matter how rural Illinois-oriented they are in their approach to life.
WOULD SELLING OFF the state government building in downtown Chicago wind up becoming an even more small-minded decision by our government officials than the move made more than a decade ago to sell off control of parking meters in the city.

The one that saw Chicago blow through the payoff they received, while ensuring that corporate interests will make money off the city for decades to come?

This is something people should think seriously about – particularly if provisions that the existing Chicago Transit Authority “el” and subway platforms at the building would have to be maintained regardless of what some future developer might want to build there.

Of course, I also have my own memory – that of the cinematic scenes from the film “Running Scared” that were shot there. How many of us would not want to see the spot where actor Billy Crystal’s “Chicago cop character” ruined Jimmy Smits’ “drug dealer character” by throwing his “stash” all over the Thompson Center floor?


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