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Willis Tower set to receive a $500 million makeover

Written by
Jonathan Samples

The city is hoping a proposed $500 million renovation of the Willis Tower will make the iconic, yet formidable looking building feel more open and accessible to the public. Plans for Chicago’s tallest building include six levels of new retail and entertainment space, enhancements to the famous Skydeck observation area and a 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and winter garden.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel disclosed some specific details of proposed upgrades to the building, which is owned by private equity and real estate investment firm Blackstone. “[Blackstone] is investing half a billion dollars in an iconic building,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “It’s an investment in the South Loop… [Willis Tower] will be more receptive to foot traffic for people coming, staying longer and also not going outside the South Loop for lunch. It’s gonna be a tremendous draw.”

Included in the proposal are renovations to the Skydeck—an observation deck and museum located on the 103rd floor—that building owners hope will add significantly to what is already a popular tourist attraction. Another major feature of the plan is a complete overhaul of the existing stone plaza, which will be replaced by a three-story glass structure that promises visitors clear views of the Willis Tower’s 110 floors.

If approved, the plan would be the first major renovation of the 43-year-old building. Take a look at additional renderings of the upgrades below:

Courtesy Equity Office

Courtesy Equity Office

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