Chicago/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on May 03, 2024
Google Begins Transformative Revamp of Chicago's Thompson Center, Preserves Iconic AtriumSource: Google Street View

The renovation saga of Chicago's Thompson Center took a concrete turn last Thursday as demolition crews got down to business, working on the building's exterior. The upheaval is part of Google's grand scheme to repurpose the historically controversial site into its flashy Chicago HQ, as confirmed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Excavators ripped into the lower parts of the structure at 100 W. Randolph St., initiating the implementation of a $280 million makeover.

As suggested by permits, the plan involves shedding the Thompson Center of its metallic and glass epidermis. However, don't expect the building to shed its signature atrium – Google insists that's here to stay. The new look, minus the iconic blue, salmon, and white hues, should bear a close resemblance to the original aesthetic. That graffiti-splattered 29-foot tall sculpture, fondly dubbed "Snoopy in a Blender," has also been carted off but will find a new home at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sun-Times stated.

For those who've been wringing their hands worrying about the fate of Helmut Jahn's post-modernist landmark, there's some peace of mind to be had. Per a rendering update tossed out by Google and reported via WTTW News, the atrium isn’t going anywhere. "For the Thompson Center, we’re working with the building’s original architects at Jahn to help bring the design into the 21st century while maintaining its iconic form," said Karen Sauder, Google Chicago site lead.

Last year's acquisition from Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a reported $105 million rescued the building from potential demolition. Google now envisages a vibrant hub for its 2,000 employees, complete with an overhauled colonnade to offer an enhanced ground floor "experience" – think more food and beverage retail, and a reanimated plaza for seasonal shindigs. Still, the tech giant has been tight-lipped about their promises of a "new and improved CTA experience."

The Thompson Center, completed in 1985, has oscillated between architectural stardom and pariah over its turbulent life. Its unique "starship" form was blighted by a costly battle against temperature, with tenants once lamenting its oven-like interiors and the atrium's unwanted forte in noise amplification.

Chicago-Real Estate & Development