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United Airlines Decides To Stick With Willis Tower

Rendering of Catalog in Willis Tower

Blackstone’s decision to spend $500M to remake its iconic Willis Tower is already paying dividends. United Airlines said Wednesday that it will keep its headquarters at Willis, and agreed to extend its lease to 2033. The airline also said it would embark on a complete redesign of its office space over the next few months, complementing much of Blackstone’s recent work.

United has 850K SF on the lower 16 floors of Willis, and the new deal doesn’t include an expansion, though it does come with an unspecified amount of tenant allowance from Blackstone to redo its office, a United spokesperson told Bisnow

Blackstone is just one of many owners of older downtown buildings that recently launched a major renovation project meant to bring in amenities similar to those enjoyed by tenants in the new trophy towers that rose in the West Loop over the past several years.

The competition for tenants is definitely getting intense. Developers in Chicago’s Central Business District delivered more than 5.2M SF since 2015, according to Colliers International. And of the six buildings delivered in 2018, with a total of 2M SF, tenants had already either pre-leased or occupied 86% of that space by the end of the year.

Blackstone bought Willis in 2015 for about $1.3B, and began making changes. The renovation project includes the addition of Catalog, 300K SF of new retail, dining, conferencing, events and entertainment space on five floors, more than 125K SF of tenant exclusive amenities, and a 30K SF outdoor deck and garden.

In addition, New York City-based Convene, a flexible workplace provider, was hired to open a 91K SF amenity space next year.

In 2016, it secured a Platinum Wired Certification, the highest rating of the standard developed by New York-based WiredScore to highlight best-in-class internet connectivity.

A team from JLL represented United in the lease.