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The Willis Tower in Chicago now boasts an outdoor roof garden and a host of other features that aim to make the skyscraper a community gathering place as well as a workplace. 

The Willis Tower in Chicago now boasts an outdoor roof garden and a host of other features that aim to make the skyscraper a community gathering place as well as a workplace. 

Photographer: Tom Harris/EQ Office/Gensler

CityLab
Design

The Office Tower Has a New Job to Do

As workers opt to stay home, developers are packing commercial buildings with amenities that mix private and public spaces. 

In 2015, private equity giant Blackstone Inc. purchased the Willis (née Sears) Tower and began a half-billion-dollar renovation that would radically change the role the former tallest building in the world would play in downtown Chicago.

Today, anyone — not just workers in the 108-story office tower — can sample from a wide range of new public amenities inside the building. At a new multi-level food hall, you can grab breakfast at Do-Rite Donuts and Chicken or spend $19 on a bluefin tuna roll at Sushi San. The Color Factory, an interactive (as in: Instragrammable) art museum, opened up in June, beckoning tourists and locals with chromatic thirst traps. A 75,000-squre-foot conference center hosts group meetings, and weddings are in the works. On the tower’s podium, yoga classes and concerts can be held on a new 30,000-square-foot landscaped roof garden. Office workers in need of an early happy hour can find one in a new bar on the 33rd floor that opens at 3 pm.