Google Appears Big in Chicago Benefactor Search


Ken Griffin – who needs him?

No one at last week’s announcement of Google’s takeover of the Thompson Center uttered anything close to that sentiment, but it hung in the air from the building’s atrium as the Gov. JB Pritzker and others marched down a podium to praise Chicago’s new BBF – the best business friend.

The mayor, an alderman, the head of the chamber of commerce and the developers involved in the Google deal joined the governor, all celebrating an economic triumph and indulging in justifiable booze.

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It’s been a tough few weeks for most of them. The crime rate is horrendous, especially in places that aren’t used to dealing with it. COVID-19 still has a grip on office routines, with many workers keeping their discretionary cash at home each day. Boeing and Caterpillar have moved their headquarters to set up new ones in the southern United States.

Griffin, in a snitch to fit a billionaire in control of hundreds of jobs, said his Citadel businesses were leaving for Miami because of Chicago’s chaos. It’s heading where the crime isn’t much better, but where there are ocean breezes and no state income tax.

Pritzker was in his element when Google announced. He knows the tech lingo, having harvested promising ideas as a venture capitalist while launching the proving ground for startups known as 1871. On an earlier occasion when Google was touting new jobs here, Pritzker said, “We view Google as a Chicago-based company. »

Pritzker shook things up at the Thompson Center press conference, saying, “We’re saving taxpayers’ money. We create well-paying jobs. We add vitality to the Loop and improve the working environment for thousands of private and public sector employees. Let it be said that Chicago and Illinois are open for business. »

He’s thrilled not only for political purposes, but also because by buying the Thompson Center at La Salle and Randolph streets, Google is solving two civic problems: what to do with the former state office center in Chicago that needs expensive work but the state no longer wants, and what can be done to help the Loop, especially the spine along La Salle which, even before the pandemic, saw an exodus of marquee office tenants?

For the state, the sale to Google is a cleaner deal than the one Pritzker hatched last December. He called for selling most of the Thompson Center to developer Michael Reschke of Prime Group, but keeping some government offices there, making the state responsible for some of the rehabilitation costs.

With the direct sale to Google for $105 million, the state government offloads that burden. It then purchased the building at 115 S. La Salle Street, formerly the headquarters of BMO Harris, from Reschke for $75 million and consolidated its downtown leases there.

Reschke is happy because he and Quintin Primo III, chairman of Capri Investment Group, are paid both by the state and by Google. They will manage Google’s improvements to the Thompson Center. Reschke summed up the speech to the taxpayers well. “The state will own 50% more space on La Salle Street at 50% less cost,” he said.

Everyone hopes Google will do for downtown what it did for Fulton Market when it moved there in 2015, landing with a bang to show the former meatpacking district is A-OK for connected employers. Its leaders saw something in the idea of ​​moving into a former cold storage facility. Job growth followed for Google.

Now Karen Sauder, Google’s Chicago operations manager, sees similar potential with the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center, a postmodern flight of fancy that was never executed properly. Maybe Google’s money can solve this problem.

Google executive Karen Sauder, to the applause of Gov. JB Pritzker, speaks on Wednesday about the company’s purchase of the Thompson Center.

People should keep an eye on Sauder. She does a great job selling Chicago. She spoke generously about her attributes a month ago when the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce released research documenting the growth of the local tech sector.

And at Pritzker’s event last week, Sauder said, “Chicago is not only a world-class city, it’s also an incredibly important and attractive place for Google to deepen our roots.” We’ve been lucky enough to call it home since 2000 and have loved being part of Chicago’s diverse and vibrant community. Googlerslove Chicago and all that this city has to offer.

“That’s why we’re excited to deepen our long-term commitment to Chicago in such a meaningful way with our occupancy plans. and purchase the renovated Thompson Center building in the future.

She and Google gave a big gift to Chicago. Local boosters have been on the defensive for months. Even the Chicago Bears are making a big fuss about going to the suburbs, which has the city clocking in with plans to rebuild Soldier Field a second time with corporate naming rights on the line.

Hmmm. Veteran groups won’t like this. But is this one more problem that Google and Sauder are going to solve for the city?

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