IMC expands Willis Tower lease by 50% after $500M renovation

Chicago’s tallest skyscraper lands first deal since finishing major capital injection

Blackstone’s Kathleen McCarthy with rendering of Willis Tower (LinkedIn, EQ Office)
Blackstone’s Kathleen McCarthy with rendering of Willis Tower (LinkedIn, EQ Office)

Blackstone-owned Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building, landed an expanded lease extension, its first since unveiling a $500 million renovation with more retail and tenant amenities.

Technology-driven market maker IMC took another 50,000 square feet in the 110-story skyscraper, expanding its previous lease by 50 percent to 160,000 square feet, according to a statement from Blackstone affiliate and tower manager EQ Office.

The building’s yearslong upgrade brought 150,000 square feet of tenant-exclusive amenities such as cafes and bars, a fitness center, lounge areas and conference spaces, and installed a new structure at the base of the building with 300,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space. The move underscores how important tenant perks have become as landlords compete with a wave of commercial development, particularly in Fulton Market, as the Loop’s office vacancy soared to record levels.

“The recent repositioning has set the tower apart in the market by creating a workplace with incredible amenities and quality office spaces,” Nikki Kern of the Telos Group, which represents EQ Office in tower negotiations, said in the statement.

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IMC’s decision is rare amid the pandemic as office users cut back on office space even since the virus started to wane this year. Firms have found they require less space as many employees still prefer to work from home, at least for one or more days per week. Those who have signed new leases have tended to do so in newer buildings with high-quality amenities — but for less space than they had before.

Blackstone bought Willis Tower for $1.3 billion in 2015, well ahead of the pandemic, and two years later began pouring in cash to perform the upgrades. Other Loop landlords have since followed suit after getting prodded by the pandemic’s blow to downtown office demand. AmTrust Real Estate is putting $100 million into its Loop portfolio of vintage towers to add similar features such as lounges, bars and cafes for tenants who want their buildings to draw employees to commute by offering a social scene only available at the office.

Matt Carolan and Phil Geiger of JLL represented IMC in the deal. Jamey Dix and Caroline Colnon along with Kern of the Telos Group represented EQ Office.

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