Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined Blackstone and Equity Office, an office portfolio company owned by Blackstone’s real estate funds, to announce visionary plans for Willis Tower in downtown Chicago, an architectural icon and one of the world’s tallest buildings. Through a $500 million investment, Willis Tower will be transformed and reinforced as a civic destination and the premier workplace with unprecedented office amenities, and unique retail and entertainment experiences. The transformation will be the first major renovation in the building’s 43-year history, creating a modernized Willis Tower.
“With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come,” Mayor Emanuel said. “But more than that – today Blackstone is doubling-down on its confidence in the future we are building in the city of Chicago.”
“Willis Tower has always been iconic within Chicago’s skyline and around the world,” said Jon Gray, Global Head of Real Estate, Blackstone. “The investment we announced today is the largest Blackstone has ever made in reimagining one of its properties. Our goal is to restore Willis Tower to its original prominence and make it a must-visit destination in Chicago for tenants, local residents and tourists. This investment sets a bold new standard for office environments and urban centers around the world and underscores our commitment to the development of the city of Chicago.”
As part of the transformation, approximately 460,000 square feet of existing space within the Tower will be reconfigured. This includes 150,000 square feet of space for exclusive tenant use, including a full-service fitness center, expansive tenant lounges, private event space and concierge services to create an inspiring and energetic work environment. The plan also calls for more than 300,000 square feet of new retail, dining and entertainment space to be added to the base of the building, and a new 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and garden space.
The Willis Tower transformation will offer a new generation of visitors the ultimate combination of sleek design and comfort, and openness and intimacy. The retailers and attractions added to the building will bring together local culinary stars and first-to-market restaurants, introducing exciting new flavors from faraway places, wines from around the world, craft beer from the neighborhoods, and the best local boutiques and global brands.
Part of the investment will also focus on enhancing the Tower’s 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago experience, which currently welcomes 1.7 million national and international visitors annually, to create a world class and one-of-a-kind family entertainment experience. Work to transform the Tower is scheduled to begin this month, and will create an additional 2,500 jobs.
“We are pleased to be in the position to draw on Bruce Graham’s original inspiration for this Tower, and to have the opportunity to harmonize his enduring vision with the changes that have since occurred in the city and its neighborhoods, and in the nature of the way we use urban environments for work, life and play,” said Eli Khouri, President and Chief Executive Officer, Equity Office. “Our goal is to remain true to his vision, by making the Tower the most coveted workplace in the city as well as a compelling public destination, and a source of civic pride for Chicago’s citizens. Against that backdrop, the project provides the perfect platform to showcase Equity Office’s ability to create best-in-class work environments that drive value for successful organizations.”
The Tower’s transformation will include a new three-story transparent, glass structure set atop the existing stone plaza welcoming visitors and offering a ‘see and be seen’ experience that invites people to engage, linger and enjoy the streetscape. Below the glass facade will be three subterranean floors organized around a three-story winter garden crowned with a dramatic glass skylight, which will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above.
Designed in the 1960s, Willis Tower, like its contemporaries, was built atop a base to separate the urban streetscape from the building, and to minimize the number of people walking along the sidewalk. The new plans break this barrier, blending the building into the city it calls home and re-energizing the downtown area.
“Once complete, the reimaged Willis Tower will bring a new energy to Chicago’s central business district, creating a lively neighborhood center where people will work, spend time and enjoy the best of the city,” said Paul Kurzawa, Managing Director – Development, Equity Office, who is overseeing the redevelopment. “The new Willis Tower will raise the boundaries of architectural excellence and represent the pinnacle of deeply livable work environments in the city of Chicago as well as urban centers around the world.”
Blackstone and Equity Office’s vision for the new Willis Tower was brought to life by the Chicago office of Gensler, a global San Francisco-based design firm. Gonzalez Architects designed the tenant-only office amenities, and Los Angeles-based Hetzel Design is overseeing the design concepts for the Skydeck enhancements. Design-build firm Turner Clayco will oversee the construction of the new Willis Tower.
About Willis Tower
Standing 1,450 feet and 110 stories tall at 233 S. Wacker Drive, Willis Tower offers more than 4.5 million square feet of premiere office, retail and entertainment space. Debuted in September 1973 as the Sears Tower, today more than 100 prominent businesses call Willis Tower home, including financial services, law firms and insurance companies. America’s iconic skyscraper is centrally situated between the city’s financial and cultural hubs and the dynamic West Loop, home to some of the Windy City’s top shops and restaurants. Boasting spectacular Chicago and Lake Michigan views reaching nearly 50 miles on a clear day, the 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago is the highest observation deck in the United States. Featuring The Ledge, a first-of-its kind attraction that extends four glass viewing boxes beyond the structure itself to create an unforgettable viewing experience, Willis Tower attracts more than 1.6 million visitors per year.
Source : Company