The Blackstone Group today announced a massive $500 million rehab of the venerable Willis Tower. The iconic skyscraper will get a major facelift, reconfiguring nearly 460,000 square feet of existing space.
Work will commence this month, modernizing the tower and creating 2,500 jobs in the process.
Highlights of the rehab will be a new three-story transparent, glass structure above the existing stone plaza. Under the façade, three underground floors will surround a winter garden.
Other highlights of the rehab will be a new retail, dining and entertainment space added to the base of the building, and a new 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and garden space.
The 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago will also receive a facelift.
The Chicago office of Gensler was responsible for the overall vision of the renovation. Gonzalez Architects designed the office amenities, and Hetzel Design is handling the Skydeck enhancements. Turner Clayco will oversee construction.
One interesting aspect of the rehab is a rethinking of the original base design. In the 1960s when the then-Sears Tower was built, it was built on a base to separate it from the street. That had the effect of minimizing the number of people walking along the sidewalk around it. The new plan completely changes that concept, and blends the building into the city and the area around it.
This is the first major renovation in the history of the 43-year-old building. Work is expected to be completed in 2019.