Gensler to Upgrade Chicago’s Willis Tower

A northwest view of Gensler's forthcoming addition to the tower's base. All renderings Blackstone.

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Chicago’s Willis Tower is poised to receive a $500 million overhaul designed by Gensler. Todd Heiser, a principal at Gensler, who was Contract magazine’s 2016 Designer of the Year, will lead the design. The renovation will focus on revamping the street-level presence of the former Sears Tower by placing a new three-story glass structure atop its existing stone entrance plaza, which will house six levels and 300,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space. The upgrades are set to debut in the summer of 2019.

Dining venues are slated to open as well, including a fresh food market, casual eateries, and a five-star restaurant. The retail podium will be crowned with a winter garden, featuring a wave-like glass atrium that frames upward views of the tower. The addition will be topped with 30,000 square feet of public outdoor space, increasing the property’s green space by 500 percent.

The project will also call for the reconfiguration of 460,000 square feet of existing space including 150,000 square feet of mixed-use tenant amenities. Updates will also be made to the SkyDeck on the 103rd floor, with assistance from Los Angeles–based firm Hetzel Design. The attraction may be expanded with a second level and see the arrival of a new visitor experience that offers an alternative perspective from 1,353 feet above the sidewalk.