This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 13, 2018
A rendering shows the Willis Atrium at Catalog, a five-story dining, retail and entertainment space to be located at the base of Willis Tower. Catalog is anticipated to open to the public in mid-2020. (EQ Office / Blackstone / Gensler rendering)
Chicago’s tallest skyscraper also could be known for its sprawling base by late 2019, when Willis Tower’s owner completes a 300,000-square-foot expansion designed to lure thousands of additional visitors each day.
About 200 trades workers are on the job six days a week to complete an unusual five-level addition starting inside the south edge of the 110-story tower, which has been cut away, as part of owner Blackstone Group’s $500 million expansion.
New York-based Blackstone is adding a food hall, meeting and events space, restaurants, entertainment, a rooftop park and a soaring skylight — offering straight-up views of the south side of Willis Tower — that will be supported by specially made, 75,000-pound beams.
The overhaul also will replace the fortresslike exterior with tall windows, improved entrances and open gathering areas.
The new space will be called Catalog, a reference to the 1,451-foot-tall skyscraper’s initial namesake tenant, Sears, Roebuck & Co., and to Chicago’s history as home to other mail-order retail giants such as Montgomery Ward.
Catalog is designed to serve the tower’s massive workforce and the more than 1.7 million annual visitors to the Skydeck tourist attraction.
“We’re a city within a city, with 15,000 workers here each day, and that number is only increasing with new leasing,” said David Moore, senior vice president and portfolio director at Chicago-based EQ Office, Blackstone’s office unit. “Our approach to this entire project is all about making it feel like a neighborhood.”
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