Searing row over Willis plans for Chicago tower

The Sears Tower, the tallest building in the western hemisphere is to be renamed Willis Tower when London-based Willis Group takes over a tenancy at the property, although the move has angered some residents in its Chicago home.

The building, first opened in 1973, is recognised worldwide as an architectural signature of Chicago’s skyline. Willis plans to consolidate five area offices and move nearly 500 Associates into Willis Tower, initially occupying more than 140,000 square feet on multiple floors.

But some Chicago residents are campaigning for the building to keep its old name and a web-based petition has secured more than 300 signatures protesting at the change.

Joseph J. Plumeri, chairman and chief executive, Willis Group Holdings says: “Having our name associated with Chicago’s most iconic structure underscores our commitment to this great city, and recognises Chicago’s importance as a major financial hub and business centre”We are delighted to be making this bold move and firmly establishing our leading presence in one of the nation’s biggest insurance markets, and it will be wonderful for all our Associates to work under one roof.” A statement from online petition says: “For 36 years, the Sears Tower has stood not only as the tallest building in America, but as a cultural icon. The Sears Tower has defined Chicago’s skyline, culture, and image to the rest of the world. When one thinks Chicago, they think Sears Tower. Not “Willis” Tower. Chicagoans and admirers of the city all over the world refuse to let “Willis” Tower carry the legacy of what was once the world’s tallest building for 25 years, and currently the tallest building in America. Icons don’t get name changes, that’s why they’re icons. Willis Group Holdings, keep the Sears Tower name.”