Blackstone to spend $500m Remaking Willis Tower

February 1, 2017

Blackstone to spend $500m Remaking Willis Tower

By Hui-yong Yu 

Blackstone Group LP said it plans to spend $500 million to revamp Chicago’s Willis Tower as it tries to draw more tourists and office tenants to the country’s second-tallest building.

The makeover of the 110-story skyscraper will be the first major renovation in the tower’s 43-year history, according to a statement today by Blackstone. The investment is the largest the firm has made in one of its properties, real estate chief Jon Gray said in the statement.

Blackstone plans to reconfigure about 460,000 square feet (42,700 square meters) of existing space, including amenities such as a fitness center for tenants, lounges and event space. The plan also calls for more than 300,000 square feet of new retail, dining and entertainment areas to be added to the base of the building and a new 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and garden.

Part of the money will go toward improving the Skydeck Chicago attraction on the 103rd floor. The Skydeck has 1.7 million visitors annually, according to the statement.

The project also will include a new three-story glass structure on the entry plaza, below which will be three floors organized around a winter garden.

Blackstone bought Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, in 2015 for $1.3 billion, a record for a Chicago office building. The skyscraper is 85 percent occupied.

Besides betting on continued improvement in Chicago’s economy, the investment is a point of personal pride for Gray, who grew up in the suburb of Highland Park.

“This deal generated the most excitement from my parents of anything I’ve ever worked on,” Gray said in a phone interview.

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