No More Talkin’ ‘Bout “Willis” — Two Chicago Skyscraper Icons Due for Name Changes: ST

Willis Tower - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2010 - 002a

The letter-yanking line forms here. Looks like someone already got the tittles.  That’s what you call the dots over the letter “i.”  You’re welcome.

Two of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers are getting new names — Names that don’t even belong to companies in them, according to the Sun-Times.

Extraordinarily well-connected columnist Michael Sneed reports that both the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue) and the Willis Tower (233 South Wacker Drive) are close to inking deals that would give naming rights to third-party companies, with headquarters elsewhere.

The article quotes 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins as saying, “Selling naming rights for buildings not occupied by the company that’s named is a new phenomenon and it’s something our ordinances don’t really address.”

If all this sounds familiar, it should.  The Sun-Times has rung this warning bell before.  In March of last year, the same paper reported that the Hearn Company was getting ready to sell naming rights to the John Hancock Center to the highest bidder.  Back then neighborhood group SOAR fired off letters to 42nd Ward Alderman and then-second ward Alderman Bob Fioretti expressing its disgust over the idea.

But a lot has changed in the last year.  The Hancock Center was gerrymandered out of Reilly’s 42nd ward, and Fioretti was gerrymandered out of City Hall.  And by opening up the bidding to companies not located in the towers, it increases the potential revenue by expanding the bidding pool exponentially.

What’s different this time is that Sneed reports the name change is “imminent.”  Perhaps by this time next year, “Hancock” or “Willis” or both will be added to the “Remember When?” file, along with names like Marshall Field’s, LaSalle Bank, White Hen Pantry, and Comiskey Park.

John Hancock Center Observatory sign

Sign companies love this kind of chaos.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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