Gensler launch $500m revamp of Chicago's Willis Tower to create 'must-visit' attraction | attractionsmanagement.com news
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Gensler launch $500m revamp of Chicago's Willis Tower to create 'must-visit' attraction
POSTED 08 Feb 2017 . BY Kim Megson
The Willis Tower is an architectural icon and one of the world's tallest structures Credit: Wiki Commons

With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come
– Rahm Emanuel
Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has announced ambitious plans to transform the city’s famous Willis Tower into a civic destination offering “unique retail and entertainment experiences.”

The building – an architectural icon and, at 1,450ft (442m), one of the world's tallest structures – was designed by architect Bruce Graham at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and opened in 1973 as the Sears Tower. It has not been renovated in the four decades since.

Development firm Blackstone – which bought the tower in 2015 – is investing US$500m (€496.6m, £400.4m) in the revamp, which has been designed by architecture and engineering giant Gensler.

Around 460,000sq ft (42,700sq m) of existing space within the tower will be reconfigured, including a full-service fitness centre, expansive tenant lounges and private event space for the people who live and work there. New public areas include more than 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) of retail, dining and entertainment space, to be added to the base of the building, and a 30,000sq ft (2,780sq m) outdoor deck and garden space.

A new three-story transparent, glass structure will be set atop the existing stone plaza, offering a “see and be seen” experience that invites people to linger and enjoy the streetscape. Below the glass facade will be three subterranean floors organised around a three-storey winter garden. A dramatic glass skylight will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above.

Gensler have added this feature to break the barrier between the urban streetscape and the building, which was created in the original design by building the tower atop a base. According to the developer, the new design adapts to “changes that have since occurred in the city and its neighbourhoods, and in the nature of the way we use urban environments for work, life and play.”

In addition to the major building renovations, Willis Tower’s 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago experience will be enhanced by Los Angeles practice Hetzel Design to create “a one-of-a-kind family entertainment experience.” The attraction, which currently welcomes 1.7 million visitors annually, is the highest observation deck in the US and boasts views of up to 50 miles, covering four states, on a clear day.

Four glass viewing boxes, called ‘The Ledge,’ extend beyond the structure itself. While these can hold up to five tonnes, cracks in the glass formed in May 2014, forcing their temporary closure.

Blackstone has pledged to offer 5,000 free Skydeck tickets annually to Chicago’s public schools, so that children from communities across the city can experience the attraction following the revamp.

“With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come,” said Emanuel. “But more than that – today Blackstone is doubling-down on its confidence in the future we are building in the city of Chicago.”

Jon Gray, global head of real estate at Blackstone, added: “Willis Tower has always been iconic within Chicago’s skyline and around the world. The investment we announced today is the largest Blackstone has ever made in reimagining one of its properties.

“Our goal is to restore Willis Tower to its original prominence and make it a must-visit destination in Chicago for tenants, local residents and tourists.”

Work on the project will begin this month, with design-build firm Turner Clayco overseeing construction.
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A winter garden is a major component of the revamp
The developers have pledged to create a civic destination offering 'unique retail and entertainment experiences'
New public areas include more than 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) of retail, dining and entertainment space
A new three-story transparent, glass structure will be set atop the existing stone plaza, offering a 'see and be seen' experience
A dramatic glass skylight will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above
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NEWS
Gensler launch $500m revamp of Chicago's Willis Tower to create 'must-visit' attraction
POSTED 08 Feb 2017 . BY Kim Megson
The Willis Tower is an architectural icon and one of the world's tallest structures Credit: Wiki Commons
With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come
– Rahm Emanuel
Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has announced ambitious plans to transform the city’s famous Willis Tower into a civic destination offering “unique retail and entertainment experiences.”

The building – an architectural icon and, at 1,450ft (442m), one of the world's tallest structures – was designed by architect Bruce Graham at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and opened in 1973 as the Sears Tower. It has not been renovated in the four decades since.

Development firm Blackstone – which bought the tower in 2015 – is investing US$500m (€496.6m, £400.4m) in the revamp, which has been designed by architecture and engineering giant Gensler.

Around 460,000sq ft (42,700sq m) of existing space within the tower will be reconfigured, including a full-service fitness centre, expansive tenant lounges and private event space for the people who live and work there. New public areas include more than 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) of retail, dining and entertainment space, to be added to the base of the building, and a 30,000sq ft (2,780sq m) outdoor deck and garden space.

A new three-story transparent, glass structure will be set atop the existing stone plaza, offering a “see and be seen” experience that invites people to linger and enjoy the streetscape. Below the glass facade will be three subterranean floors organised around a three-storey winter garden. A dramatic glass skylight will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above.

Gensler have added this feature to break the barrier between the urban streetscape and the building, which was created in the original design by building the tower atop a base. According to the developer, the new design adapts to “changes that have since occurred in the city and its neighbourhoods, and in the nature of the way we use urban environments for work, life and play.”

In addition to the major building renovations, Willis Tower’s 103rd floor Skydeck Chicago experience will be enhanced by Los Angeles practice Hetzel Design to create “a one-of-a-kind family entertainment experience.” The attraction, which currently welcomes 1.7 million visitors annually, is the highest observation deck in the US and boasts views of up to 50 miles, covering four states, on a clear day.

Four glass viewing boxes, called ‘The Ledge,’ extend beyond the structure itself. While these can hold up to five tonnes, cracks in the glass formed in May 2014, forcing their temporary closure.

Blackstone has pledged to offer 5,000 free Skydeck tickets annually to Chicago’s public schools, so that children from communities across the city can experience the attraction following the revamp.

“With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come,” said Emanuel. “But more than that – today Blackstone is doubling-down on its confidence in the future we are building in the city of Chicago.”

Jon Gray, global head of real estate at Blackstone, added: “Willis Tower has always been iconic within Chicago’s skyline and around the world. The investment we announced today is the largest Blackstone has ever made in reimagining one of its properties.

“Our goal is to restore Willis Tower to its original prominence and make it a must-visit destination in Chicago for tenants, local residents and tourists.”

Work on the project will begin this month, with design-build firm Turner Clayco overseeing construction.
Sign up here to get the Attractions Management weekly ezine and every issue of Attractions Management magazine free on digital.
A winter garden is a major component of the revamp
The developers have pledged to create a civic destination offering 'unique retail and entertainment experiences'
New public areas include more than 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) of retail, dining and entertainment space
A new three-story transparent, glass structure will be set atop the existing stone plaza, offering a 'see and be seen' experience
A dramatic glass skylight will provide unobstructed views of all 110 floors of the tower rising above
RELATED STORIES
Long-awaited Chicago Riverwalk brings leisure to the heart of the city


After 15 years, Chicago studio Ross Barney Architects have completed their dramatic transformation of the city’s central riverfront – the most visible public project in the city since Millennium Park opened in 2004.
Marks Barfield and Davis Brody Bond design 'iconic' cable car for Chicago


Marks Barfield Architects, the creators of the London Eye, have been tasked with designing a cable car across Chicago that will become an “iconic attraction” for the city.
Blackstone buys Chicago's Willis Tower for US$1.3bn – will invest US$150m in leisure elements


Blackstone has announced it will buy Chicago’s Willis Tower, the second-tallest building in the US for US$1.3bn (€1.19bn, £800m).
Cracks appear in Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck


Visitors using Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck got more of a thrill than expected when the glass wall – which hangs hundreds of feet above the ground below – started to crack.
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Simworx Ltd

The company was initially established in 1997. Terry Monkton and Andrew Roberts are the key stakeh [more...]
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iPlayCo was established in 1999. [more...]
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FEATURED SUPPLIER

Triotech and Benoit Cornet’s Bold Move to collaborate on breakthrough innovative media-based attractions
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VIDEO GALLERY

Proslide Tech Inc - ProSlide | Atlantis Dubai
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+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

28-30 Sep 2021

International Wellness Tourism Conference

Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Miami, United States
01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
+ More diary  
 


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