Two iconic downtown buildings will soon be for sale. Which gives this reporter an idea. Credit: (Sun-Times)

This won’t happen. But two iconic buildings are on the market in Chicago, and the owners should consider trading with each other.

Besides being tumbledown, the glassy, atrium-centered James R. Thompson Center is a sorry symbol of the openness of government because government has never been open in Chicago and no one expects it to be. I’ve cut through the Thompson Center many times and never seen a governor on the premises, even though supposedly he runs the joint. If he’s there he’s behind closed doors, wheeling and dealing with other closed-door operatives like the house leader, the senate leader, and the mayor of the city whose offices are across the street.

But do you know what could fit into the Thompson Center’s first-floor space and look completely at home there? The editorial offices of the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune Tower, which the Tribune is abandoning, has always sent mixed messages out onto Michigan Avenue. It radiated a fierce Gothic power; the rocks embedded in its walls from Westminster Abbey, the Parthenon, the Kremlin, and wherever asserted global reach; its Hall of Inscriptions just inside the front door rang of a fearless devotion to truth. “Give me liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to my conscience, above all other liberties,” said first Milton and then the entry to the Chicago Tribune.

But the mighty Tribune argued from on high. Try to sail past the security guards to the elevator bank, in order to give the editorial board upstairs an earful of your own conscience, and you’d be collared and tossed out.

The only thing a newspaper needs to communicate these days is that it still matters. So put the Tribune in the middle of the Loop, behind two-way glass so it can stare out and we can stare in, and let it go about its work. Meanwhile, high above Gotham City—sorry, Chicago—peering down on the city from his Fortress of Solitude—sorry, wrong comic—the governor and his peers can hatch their schemes. At one point it would have been unconscionable to even suggest desecrating the Tower that way. But that was before Sam Zell.