Boats tie up along the Merchandise Mart in 2016. Insurer Allstate Corp. is enlarging its space in the Chicago building, owned by Vornado Realty Trust. (Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune)
A year after opening an innovation center in the Merchandise Mart, Allstate Corp. is planning a big expansion of the office.
The Northbrook-based insurer has signed a lease to more than double its space in the sprawling River North building, property owner Vornado Realty Trust said.
Allstate has leased 57,000 square feet of new space in the Mart, increasing its total to 102,000 square feet, Vornado executive David Greenbaum said Tuesday in a call with analysts.
Greenbaum is president of the Vornado division whose office properties include the Mart.
It is unclear how many workers Allstate is expected to have in the expanded space, and whether the company needs the room for new hires or job relocations from the suburbs. The expanded space would be large enough to accommodate hundreds of additional employees.
An Allstate spokeswoman did not immediately confirm plans to expand the office.
Last spring, Allstate opened a 45,000-square-foot office in the Mart, saying it planned to eventually employ about 400 technology workers. Allstate said quantitative research and analytics employees and members of its connected car team would work in the Chicago office, the Tribune reported in March 2016.
Allstate’s initial lease last year, and its planned expansion, continues a run of companies from Chicago’s suburbs and outside the Chicago area moving offices into the Mart, which was long known more for design showrooms than offices.
Other companies that have moved in workers from outside the city and Chicago area have included Motorola Mobility, Conagra Brands, Beam Suntory, Yelp, Braintree and Kellogg.
Allstate’s space is in a portion of the Mart previously used for trade shows, Greenbaum said in the call with analysts, according to a transcript. Trade show space in the building has been reduced by half, to 200,000 square feet, "while maintaining substantially all of the trade show income," he said.
"Effectively we were able to create 200,000 square feet of office space for free," all of which has now been leased to new office tenants, he said.
Overall, the Mart is 98.9 percent leased. Although the Mart essentially has been fully leased for years, Vornado has continued to make way for higher-paying office tenants by converting design showroom space to offices in recent years.