Willis Towers Watson subleases 100K sf of namesake Chicago skyscraper

OneDigital inks 100K sf sublease, the biggest since the pandemic

Willis Towers Watson subleases 100K sf of Willis Tower
OneDigital CEO Adam Bruckman and Willis Tower (OneDigital, Getty)

Willis Towers Watson has subleased about 65 percent of the office space it had in the tower that carries its name in Chicago.

In the biggest sublease in the Windy City’s downtown since the start of the pandemic, the London-based insurer is subleasing 100,000 square feet of the 155,000 square feet of office space it has in the city’s tallest skyscraper to OneDigital, CoStar reported.

This reduction, however, will not impact the naming-rights deal established by Willis Group Holdings in 2009.

The deal was announced by Blackstone Group’s EQ Office division. The sublease was brokered by CBRE, with Brady Wolfe representing OneDigital and CBRE brokers Jon Milonas, Ellen Zalatoris, and Peter Livaditis representing Willis Towers Watson.

OneDigital, headquartered in Atlanta, specializes in providing employee benefits, insurance, and human resources services to companies and individuals. 

The company’s expansion within Willis Tower — formerly known as Sears Tower — comes after a half-billion-dollar investment by Blackstone, which acquired the iconic 110-story building for a record $1.3 billion in 2015. Blackstone added new retail spaces and amenities on lower floors.

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OneDigital’s move comes at a time when most companies have been looking to reduce their office footprints in Chicago and other large U.S. markets. 

But few, if any, cities have as much of this secondary space on the market as downtown Chicago, where tenants are looking to shed a collective 8 million square feet, a record high for the city, TRD reported in June.

Indeed, the downtown office market has seen a surge in sublease offerings, with major companies like Facebook’s Meta, Publicis, Salesforce, Tyson Foods, and Uber placing large blocks of space on the market due to remote and hybrid work trends.

A global advisory firm is looking to shed office space in Fulton Market, offering a glimpse that amenity-filled new builds aren’t a silver bullet against office market trends in Chicago. New York-based Kroll put nearly 47,000 square feet up for sublease in the 17-story building at 167 North Green Street, Crain’s reported.

Ted Glanzer, Sam Lounsberry