Rauner, Emanuel square off over future of the Thompson Center

- Gov. Bruce Rauner has wanted to sell the deteriorating, state-owned Thompson Center for two years, a deal that could net $220 million for the dead-broke state treasury. But Mayor Emanuel claims the governor just wants to take the money and run, forcing Chicago to pay up to $120 million to rebuild a busy CTA station beneath the Thompson Center.

“Who takes the cost? I'm not going to stick that on Chicago taxpayers,” Emanuel said.

Rauner's office accused the mayor of “being greedy and trying to extort the state taxpayers for more money than what the property is worth.”

Everyone agrees the property's worth a lot in the current downtown boom. Rauner has said likely buyers want to tear down the Thompson Center.

Rauner wants City Hall to rezone the three-acre site for new, high-rise construction of up to 3-million square feet.  A project that size could cost a billion dollars or more and pay Chicago property taxes of $45 million a year, while generating new jobs.

But, in the current poisoned political sphere, even an obvious win-win is in danger. The mayor hasn't forgotten Rauner's angry veto of Chicago pension reform legislation of the sort the governor himself has endorsed.

“I am not going to let the state have a short term, book a couple hundred million and then stick the Chicago taxpayers with [a bill for] $100 million. How about paying the teachers' pensions?” Emanuel asked.

There's one more reason Rauner wants to sell the Thompson Center. Officials report the big state office building needs $300 million worth of repairs.

Needless to say, they don't have the cash.

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