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EQ Office Hits Milestone In $500M Willis Makeover, And Tenants Keep Coming In

Willis Tower's Wacker Drive Lobby, now adorned with Jacob Hashimoto's sculpture

EQ Office just reopened Willis Tower’s Wacker Drive lobby after a yearlong renovation, part of the iconic property’s $500M makeover, and the ongoing effort seems to have helped bring the 46-year-old building close to full occupancy.

Savills just completed a 30K SF lease on behalf of Vi, a national developer of retirement communities, which will move in 2020 from 71 South Wacker Drive to occupy Willis’ entire 84th floor. The new lease comes just after United Airlines agreed to renew its lease for 858K SF on the tower’s lower 16 floors.    

“Having an easier way to get to tenant floors, combined with the new tenant-focused amenities like a cool tenant lounge, 30K SF fitness center, renovated Met Club and the new attached Catalog building that will house multiple food and beverage options, make the offering pretty spectacular,” Savills Vice Chairman Lisa Davidson told Bisnow.

The building is now more than 95% leased, she said. 

A Jacob Hashimoto sculpture featuring a nearly 16-foot-tall and 42-foot-wide cloud built from nearly 7,000 9-inch individual kite-like discs, is now the Wacker lobby’s focal point. EQ Office will close the Adams Street lobby for its redevelopment, and the Franklin Street lobby will remain open.

"We are transforming the Willis Tower lobbies to be interactive, energized spaces that inspire curiosity for tenants and set the tone for the rest of the workplace experience,” EQ Office Senior Vice President and Portfolio Director David Moore said.

Landlords now consider such amenities essential when competing for tenants in Chicago's expanding office market. Since 2015, developers in Chicago’s Central Business District delivered more than 5.2M SF, according to Colliers International. In the six buildings totaling 2M SF delivered in 2018, tenants had already either pre-leased or occupied 86% of that space by the end of the year.

With several other significant projects on the way, including the 2.5M SF Old Main Post Office redevelopment, the 1.4M SF 110 North Wacker Drive and several new towers in Fulton Market, that robust leasing activity will be needed to keep the market balanced between supply and demand.  

Davidson and Savills’ Midwest region lead, Joe Learner, advised Vi on its lease negotiations. Senior Managing Director Rich Dale and Director Loredana Perri, members of the firm’s project management practice, will oversee the office build-out. Nikki Kern, Jamey Dix and JD Parcheta at Telos Group represented EQ Office.