85-year-old building in downtown Springfield to get $122 million revitalization

Illinois State Armory, April 6, 1937
Illinois State Armory, April 6, 1937

The Illinois State Armory, an iconic 85-year-old building in downtown Springfield, will be getting new life in the form of a $122 million state-funded renovation project.

The currently vacant, 254,000-square-foot, seven-story building is one of the largest buildings owned by the state of Illinois and sits at Second and Adams streets.

The building is in need of repair, with leaks in the roof, basement and walls. The building also has "extensive mold and mildew growth and contains significant amounts of asbestos-containing materials," according to a statement from the governor's office.

"I know how important this project is to revitalize and reimagine our capital city, and I’m proud that the state can deliver for Springfield residents," Pritzker said Wednesday.

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The building will be used for state offices once renovations are complete. In addition to repairing damage, the project will also include new office spaces and the creation of a central atrium in the building's auditorium to bring in natural light.

The governor's office announced it intends for the building to reach LEED Silver certification, the third-highest of four possible energy efficiency ratings issued by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Historically, the building has been a major cultural center in Springfield. At various times, it has hosted speeches from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., boxing matches featuring Muhammad Ali and campaign events from then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy.

It also hosted some big-name rock and roll acts such as KISS, Bob Seger, Van Halen, Cheap Trick and the Eagles. Most of the shows were produced by Len Trumper's Whatever Productions.

The project is part of the state's renovations to the Illinois State Capitol Complex, which are ongoing. That larger project, and the Armory, in particular, were part of "The Next 10," a community planning project from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, a private philanthropic and community development agency.

“Working together on meaningful and forward-looking projects will keep Springfield among the great state capitals in the United States," said John Stremsterfer, CEO of the Community Foundation. "It is exciting to see so many transformational projects on the horizon.”

The project will happen in two phases. The first phase, beginning in July, will consist of inspecting, repairing and stabilizing the deterioration of the building. The second phase will consist of major building renovations.

"The Illinois State Armory is an iconic and loved building to the citizens of Springfield and reopening it is something I am asked about frequently," said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. "Repurposing this building into significant office space on our Capitol Campus is a tremendous use for this historic structure."

The project and its funding are part of the "Rebuild Illinois" initiative, a $45 billion state-level infrastructure spending signed into law in 2019.

“I am pleased to see the significant investment in such a prominent feature of the Springfield cityscape,” Sen. Doris Turner, D- Springfield said.

"What's exciting," said Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, "is that you have 600 office jobs in the city of Springfield and that's a commitment from the state of Illinois and thanks to Gov. Pritzker and Sen. Turner for making that happen and really imprinting the importance of reinvesting in downtown."

Those state employees were expected to transition to the building by 2025.

Reporter Steven Spearie contributed to this story. Contact Andrew Adams: aadams1@gannett.com; (312) 291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Illinois State Armory gets $122 million for renovation project