One of the United States’ most recognisable skyscrapers, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), is set to receive a 500 million USD renovation designed by the Chicago office of Gensler. Announced by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel with real estate holders Blackstone and Equity Office, the project will transform and reinvigorate the 43-year-old building, which held the title of world’s tallest building for nearly a quarter century.
“Willis Tower has always been iconic within Chicago’s skyline and around the world,” said Jon Gray, Global Head of Real Estate, Blackstone. “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.”
At the center of the renovation plans is a new 3-story glass structure atop the existing stone entrance plaza that will invite visitors to gather and enjoy the streetscape. Below this, three floors of retail and entertainment will be organised around a winter garden featuring unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower above.
The renovation will see the reconfiguration of 460,000 square feet of existing space, including 150,000 square feet of tenant space housing a fitness center, several lounge areas, private event space and concierge services. More than 300,000 square feet of new retail, dining and entertainment will be added to the base of the building, as well as a 30,000 square foot outdoor deck and garden space.
Part of the investment will also go toward upgrading the tower’s Skydeck Chicago experience, already well-known for its glass-bottomed observation deck located on the building’s 103rd floor.
Working together with Gensler on the project will be Gonzalez Architects (tenant office amenities), Los Angeles-based Hetzel Design (Skydeck enhancements) and design-build firm Turner Clayco (construction management).