CHICAGO – As Americans change the way we work, office buildings are working harder to keep employees coming downtown, which is why the owners of Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower spent $500 million for a top-to-bottom renovation.
On Tuesday morning Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot cut a ceremonial ribbon marking the completion of the half-billion-dollar renovation of one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings.
“The Willis Tower is truly Chicago’s Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building, but better because it’s here in our beloved city,” Lightfoot said.
Among the new amenities is a 300,000 square-foot enclosure called “The Catalog” which features restaurants, shops, a food hall and a giant glass ceiling offering a stunning view of the tower.
There is also new public art both inside and outside the building.
In addition, a one-acre grassy park has been constructed a couple stories above street level which is open to the public.
FOX 32 found Lois Pfeiffer of Indianapolis soaking up sunshine with coffee and a book.
“It is gorgeous. I saw it posted on the sidewalk, so I just wandered up and I love it,” she said.
There are also major renovations to the popular Skydeck, nearly 1300 feet above ground level. The spectacular views are the same, but now visitors pass through a multi-million dollar Chicago museum to get there.
“We took it to the tenth power,” said Randy Stancik, the Skydeck’s general manager. “We really wanted people to get a feel for the city, whether you live in the city or you’re coming from all the way across the world.”
All the renovations were prompted by the work-from-home trend that has been drastically accelerated by Covid-19.
“The home is definitely our biggest competition and we embrace that,” said David Moore, vice president of EG Office, which manages the building.
Moore said downtown office buildings have to step up their game, which is why many of the new additions are for tenants only, including four floors of new private space featuring a fitness center, meeting areas, two cafés and a bar.
“How do you keep that employee happy? How do you make them want to come to work? How do you attract them if you’re trying to hire them? And how do retain them once they’re in your company?” Moore said.
The answer is plenty of amenities.
Alderman Brendan Reilly said while workers are slowly returning to downtown office buildings, most are still only coming in three days a week, which is why many first-tier office buildings are spending big money to make workers more comfortable.
“The (Willis Tower) is built for post-pandemic America and work and play. So I think this is a great investment for the city and I think a great anchor to spread that activity throughout the Loop,” Reilly said.