Retail in Chicago, especially high-street retail, has performed very well in recent years. While rents have increased steadily, major new retail construction in the central business district has been limited.
That is all changing with a massive $500 million investment made by The Blackstone Group and Equity Office at the iconic Willis Tower. This is the largest investment Blackstone has ever made to reimagine one of its properties.
The total investment will transform and reconfigure 460,000 square feet of existing space within the Tower, adding 300,000 square feet of best in class new retail, dining and entertainment space to the building’s base.
CBRE’s Todd Siegel, along with development executives at Equity Office will spearhead retail development and leasing efforts for the project.
“The new amenity base at Willis Tower is a game changer for Chicago and the southern end of Wacker Drive. The shops, restaurants, and entertainment options we are carefully curating will provide an unmatched amenity base for tenants of the building, a gathering place for visitors, and a destination quality market center for local residents and downtown employees,” said David Moore, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Director – Chicago, Equity Office. “This is an exciting enhancement of one of America’s most iconic skyscrapers and it will create a lively neighborhood center where people will work, congregate, spend time and enjoy the best of the city.”
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.
“The Willis Tower has defined the Chicago skyline since its initial construction. Collectively, we are ensuring that the same dramatic and defining presence is also offered at the street front,” said CBRE’s Siegel. “This will be a unique experience that will blend high-end dining, after work entertainment options, relaxing atmospheres, convenient food and beverage providers and bespoke fitness operators.
Architecturally, the new amenity base will offer the ultimate combination of sleek design and comfort, and openness and intimacy. It will also be a significant upgrade to the current ground floor facades, which have not undergone any changes in 43 years.
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.
“The Willis Tower redevelopment will not only change how people connect and work together, but will also transform how they eat and socialize together,” added Moore. “It will introduce retail and entertainment that is missing in the West Loop, and will be unmatched by any of other destination in Chicago.”