United Airlines plans to move its primary flight control center to Arlington, the suburban Chicago town that may lure the NFL’s Bears, from its headquarters at Blackstone’s Willis Tower.
United will build a new complex in Arlington Heights, 25 miles northwest of downtown, effective April 1, with its headquarters serving as a backup, Bloomberg reported. A local outlet, the Daily Herald, reported that United will use space at the former Motorola campus at 1501 West Shure Drive. About 900 employees including managers and technical support staff are expected to move from Willis, formerly known as the Sears Tower.
The shift doesn’t mean United is abandoning Chicago. About 2,500 headquarters staff will stay at Willis Tower, where the airline is investing millions to renovate amenities.
“In terms of whether United is considering moving its headquarters out of downtown, the answer is no,” spokesman Charles Hobart told the outlets. “We remain committed to the city of Chicago.”
As remote work upends the traditional office model, landlords are fretting about rising vacancy rates in central business districts. About 22.4 percent of Chicago office space was available in the third quarter, compared with 18.6 percent at the same time last year.
The biggest downtown office default came at the 915,000-square-foot Civic Opera House at 20 North Wacker Drive, where New York investment firm 601W was hit with a $195 million foreclosure suit after failing to make monthly loan payments since May.
Boeing’s nearby headquarters at 100 North Riverside Plaza are virtually empty as many executives and employees work from home.
Moving operations closer to United’s main hub at the O’Hare International Airport “offers crucial advantages, particularly the ability to support the anticipated growth of our airline, given the facility’s larger size and potential for expansion,” said David Kensick, United’s managing director.