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United Airlines reups at Chicago's Willis Tower

United Airlines reups at Chicago's Willis Tower,ph1

United Airlines has renewed its lease in Willis Tower, which will keep the world’s second-most profitable airline in the noted high-rise until at least 2033. The news comes after a year-and-a-half search that saw the company considering riverfront megadevelopments for a new headquarters location.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the airline will undertake a phased renovation of its space. United now occupies 850,000 square feet on 16 floors within the Blackstone Group-owned trophy tower. Between 2020 to 2023, modifications will add a 30,000-square-foot cafeteria, a fourth floor roof deck, five interior staircases and create a more open office with added meeting and collaboration spaces.

The airline has called the building home since 2013 when it moved its headquarters there from 77 W. Wacker Drive. The newly reconfigured space will allow the company to move 86 employees who are still located at the former offices over to Willis Tower, as well as more than 400 workers from another site in Elk Grove Village. This will bring United’s employee count in Willis Tower to over 5,200.

The Blackstone Group acquired the property in 2015 for $1.3 billion and is nearly complete with a $500 million renovation. Modifications include expanded and updated lower floors and approximately 300,000 square feet of new restaurant, retail and entertainment space. Last fall, the building pulled the curtain back on The Metropolitan, a refreshed, 40,000-square-foot club located on the 66th and 67th floors, completed by J.C. Anderson.

According to the Tribune, United strongly considered at least three locations along the Chicago River that are the sites of future megadevelopments. These include Related Midwest’s 62-acre project in the South Loop, The 78; Sterling Bay’s 55-acre Lincoln Park/Bucktown connector, Lincoln Yards and the River District, a 37-acre development on land owned by Tribune Media Company subsidiary Tribune Real Estate Holdings.

Molly Carroll, Alexa Jennings, Kevin Rogers and Andrea VanGelder of JLL represented United in the transaction. Jamey Dix, Nikki Kern and Jon-David Parcheta of the Telos Group represented the Blackstone Group.