United renews global HQ lease at Blackstone’s Willis Tower

The airline is reupping its 850K sf space at iconic skyscraper after mulling a move

Chicago /
Mar.March 13, 2019 10:00 AM

From left: United CEO Oscar Munoz, Willis Tower at 233 South Wacker Drive, and Blackstone president Jonathan Gray (Credit: Wikipedia and Getty Images)

United Airlines is staying put in the Willis Tower, a major victory for the Blackstone Group, which no longer is faced with having to fill a cavernous vacancy in the iconic skyscraper.

The airline extended its lease on 850,000 square feet in the building at 233 South Wacker Drive after looking for a new home, according to the Chicago Tribune. As part of the extension, which runs through 2033, United will add a 30,000-square-foot cafeteria and roof deck on the fourth floor.

New York-based Blackstone bought the former Sears Tower in 2015 for $1.3 billion, then the most expensive office transaction recorded outside of New York City. It refinanced the building last year with a record $1.3 billion loan.

Blackstone was faced with losing the city’s biggest private office tenant for more than a year as United looked at several possible locations around the city for a new global headquarters. Those included three massive projects still on the drawing boards: Related Midwest’s The 78 and Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards and Tribune Media’s River District, according to the Tribune.

Willis Tower has gotten upgrades in an effort to keep and attract tenants, and Blackstone is spending a reported $668 million on renovations that include adding more than 300,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space to the complex, including a new food hall operated by Urbanspace and a Convene location.

United was represented in the search by JLL’s Molly Carroll, Andrea VanGelder, Kevin Rogers and Alexa Jennings. Blackstone was represented by Jamey Dix, Nikki Kern and Jon-David Parcheta of Telos Group. [Chicago Tribune] — John O’Brien


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