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$500M Willis Tower overhaul is well underway

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A new ground floor retail and entertainment annex at the famous tower’s base is ready to take shape

Blackstone/Gensler
Gensler/Blackstone

The ambitious plan to renovate, expand, and reposition Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower is ready to move into high gear. Yesterday, the City issued a building permit covering construction and interior build-out for a new three-story annex wrapping around the tower’s base. The permit estimates the scope of the work at $200 million—a figure that eclipses the 1,451-foot-tall tower’s total construction cost back in 1973. Expected to eventually cost $500 million, the current project received a $50 million demolition permit in August.

More than simply a reimagined lobby, the, Gensler-designed redevelopment of Willis Tower’s base will replace its former fortress-like podium with 300,000 square feet of destination retail, entertainment space, and a glassy “winter garden” atrium. Future dining options will include five-star restaurants, casual eateries, and a fresh food market aiming to serve both the tenants of the building and the neighborhood at large.

Before [top] and after [below].
Blackstone/Gensler

The new structure’s rooftop will support 30,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space designed to host a variety of programming. Willis Tower property owner Blackstone Group and partner Equity Office expect the ground floor annex to be completed by mid 2019.

In addition to the planned street level improvements and new amenities for office tenants, efforts are also in the works to overhaul the tower’s “Skydeck” observatory. The 103rd floor space will likely be expanded to a second level and host new “thrill attractions” such as a chance to rappel down the side of the building inside a transparent enclosure.

Renovation/alteration permit at 233 S Wacker Dr in Chicago

Direct developer services: Renovation of lower levels (ll), ll1, ll2, and ll3 and upper levels (l) l1, l2, and l3. Scope to also include a new 3-story addition to base of the building at l1, l2, and l3 with interior build-out. Superstructure/ demo under permit 100696292. existing uses: office, retail, assembly (Skydeck), & garage.

Blackstone/Gensler

Willis Tower Skydeck

233 South Wacker Drive, , IL 60606

Willis Tower

233 South Wacker Drive, , IL 60606 Visit Website