Online 15 Years (Since 1998)Sears Tower / Willis Tower: 110 Storeys of the Big Store
Learn the Facts

Throughout the entire Willis Tower renaming ordeal, people have forgotten these jarring truths behind Willis Group Holdings' sketchy propaganda campaign:

  • They can't afford the price-tag of ownership!
    Willis is not taking ownership of the building, they are merely a tenant.
  • They won't even be the largest single occupant!
    Willis will be leasing a meager 3.5% of the entire 110 floor skyscraper.
  • They need taxpayer money to fund their build-out costs!
    Willis received a $3.8 million TIF subsidy from the City of Chicago.

When all is said and done, Willis could never hold a candle to the sheer corporate might of Sears, Roebuck & Co which commissioned the trophy U.S. tower almost 40 years ago.

Cast Your Vote

On July 16, 2009 Sears Tower was officially renamed Willis Tower. Will you continue to refer to the building by its original name?

Yes

7656 Votes

90.9%

8420
Votes

No

764 Votes

9.1%

Since 1974 and even in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Sears Tower has stood as America's tallest building. Do you consider it to be a historic architectural landmark?

Yes

6750 Votes

93.0%

7257
Votes

No

507 Votes

7.0%

Where do you stand?
Statistics can often tell the true story about an important issue, so please make your voice heard by participating. (One vote per person please. Polls opened on March 16.)

Got an Opinion?

Is it justifiable for Willis Group Holdings to "rebrand" America's tallest building in the name of corporate greed — even despite strong public resistence? Will this move garner more respect for their firm?

Spread the word!
Let friends and family know that you support the original Sears Tower name by becoming a fan of our NEW Facebook page.

www.facebook.com/searstower

It's time to sound off!
I would like to know what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts about this controversy in the Sears Tower Guestbook!

Submit your feedback.
You can also contact me directly via email if you have further comments or questions: randall@searstower.org.

Sears Tower Fan Gear (In Association with Zazzle)

People have already begun to peel off letters from the "Willis Tower" signage in front of the building to express their ongoing objection to the new name (as of August 15, 2009).

As the first photo reveals, this sign is nothing more than a large metal plate fastened to the front of the original granite marker. Moreover, the lettering is likely just a vinyl decal with an adhesive backing. Is shoddy craftsmanship suggestive of their commitment to Chicago?

I certainly would never condone vandalism of private property, but this is visual evidence of the Chicago public's distaste for Willis Group Holdings — not to mention the notably cheap materials used in the making of their signs.

Click on a photo to the right for a larger view. All photos are copyright Randall Krause.

       
       

Latest Update:  The sign has now been repaired — and what an ingenious solution it is. They literally tacked a second metal plate over the defaced metal plate! This must be how Willis does business too?

Now playing in theaters: "Public Enemies" starring Joseph Plumeri, John Huston, and Richard M Daley. This illustration is a parody. Any resemblance to actual persons and places is intentional.

Sears Tower: The Name Says It All

Sears Tower (Photo Courtesy of Michael Lehet)

It is official. On the morning of Thursday, July 16, the unveiling of the new "Willis Tower" signage took place within and around 233 South Wacker Drive in Chicago. However, this is far from the end of Sears Tower. The name (depicted above) will remain strong in the public consciousness.

On Thursday, July 16, I personally assumed ownership of the common law rights in the recently defunct SEARS TOWER trademark.

The original building designation has been abandoned pursuant to public notice — including a ceremonial proclamation — by Willis Group Holdings Ltd and American Landmark Properties Ltd. Furthermore, Sears Holdings itself is no longer actively maintaining its USPTO registration in national or international commerce.

The SEARS TOWER mark is of significant historic interest to the American public. It remains an asset to both the City of Chicago as well as the State of Illinois. Therefore, as a brand identity, SEARS TOWER deserves ongoing protection and recognition, and is hereby claimed accordingly.

Thus, my goal is simple: Promote continued awareness of this symbolic "pop-culture" name in conjunction with the iconic building historically located at 233 South Wacker Dr.



Introduction


The Big Store seen from Lake Michigan (© Randall Krause)

Sears Tower stands tall, over 1,700 feet aloft, overlooking the west side of Chicago's downtown Loop. Clad in bronze-tinted glass and stainless aluminum, rising with determination yet elegance from the depths of its grand foundations to the tips of its massive spires, luring tourists in daze, housing a workforce of thousands, the Big Store represents an era in Chicago of optimism and opportunity that will not be forgotten.

Currently, Sears Tower is the second tallest building in the world. At 1,729 feet, it is superceded only by the United Arab Emirates' Burj Khalifa in structural height. Since its completion in 1974, it still remains the tallest skyscraper in the U.S.

Did You Know?
SearsTower.org officially launched in July of 1998, making it the longest running enthusiast site for any skyscraper worldwide.

Continue


Early Years


Modern versus classic in Chicago's Loop (© Randall Krause)

Originally designed in the late 60's by Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill for Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck and Co, Sears Tower was officially topped out on May 3, 1973.

During the skyscraper's initial construction, which began in August of 1970, two other prominent office tower projects vied for the "world's tallest" title: the Standard Oil of Indiana Building (now the Aon Center) located in downtown Chicago and the World Trade Center high-rise complex formerly located in Manhattan. Both were surpassed within their first year of completion by Sears Tower.

In 1984, SOM was commissioned to overhaul many of the tower's lower-levels, including the addition of a vaulted atrium alongside Wacker Drive. Following Sears' departure, the building underwent a comprehensive renovation by DeStefano + Assoc of all public and Skydeck lobbies and elevators. This also included the construction of two glass-and-steel canopies over the Franklin Street and Jackson Street entrances. By the fall of 1995, a seasonal rooftop illumination program was also initiated. Much like the Empire State Building, the colors typically coincide with national events and holidays.


Sears Tower was the last supertall building constructed during the International architecture period, and SOM's interpretation of the style is remarkably bold and awe-inspiring.


The superstructure consists of nine interlocking tubes that terminate at different heights, creating the iconic stepped-back appearance of the tower. Each tube is a rigid steel frame that performs in tandem with its neighbor to efficiently counteract all lateral and gravity loads. This is in contrast to the popular tube-in-tube system, in which a rigid network of floor diaphrams and closely-spaced exterior columns work in unison to resist lateral loads whereas a centralized core functions to carry vertical loads exclusively (e.g. as implemented in the World Trade Center towers.)

This "bundled-tube" configuration was a revolutionary engineering concept at the time, pioneered by SOM's very own Fazlur R. Khan. It allowed for large open office spaces on the lower levels, where Sears, Roebuck and Company would reside, and smaller floor plates on the upper levels with unobstructed views of the cityscape. To aid in occupant comfort, belt trusses were rigged on the upper mechanical floors thereby further reducing shear forces (i.e. wind-induced sway).

Building automation was a primary design consideration as well. For fire, security, and HVAC monitoring and control, engineers opted for a Honeywell computer system, one of the largest such networks ever installed at the time. Another technological innovation was the robotic window washers that could be programmed to descend along tracks built into the curtain wall. Currently, they operate eight times per year.

Sears Tower also provides facilities for broadcasting to the Chicago metropolitan area. Twin 67-foot cylindrical supports, both 12-feet in diameter, project from inside the roof to provide a rigid steel base for 159-foot communication towers, which are comprised of triangular supports and antenna pylons, all of which is encased in white fiberglass radome to prevent large diameter ice formation, extending the full building height. The 101st floor is leased to broadcasters for housing of transmitter equipment.

Vertical transporation was also crucial. Designers had to ensure efficient flow of pedestrian traffic throughout the building — which, on any given day, could number in the tens of thousands. Westinghouse Electric Corp. employed "skylobbies" for this purpose, a system which Otis Elevator Co. had originally implemented in Chicago's own John Hancock Center. Designated transfer-floors would be served by banks of double-deck express elevators. Separate banks of local-service elevators would carry passengers to their final destination.

Did You Know?
Due to its excessive height, Sears Tower was designed to lean approximately six inches from normal to counteract for the rotation of the Earth -- a fact that engineers later discovered was unnecessary. Other resources erroneously claim that this lean is the result of unequal loads bearing on its foundations.

Continue


Modern Day


Looking skywards on South Wacker Drive (© Randall Krause)

Sears eventually chose to move its headquarters to a more human-scale suburban setting in Hoffman Estates leaving the tower nearly half vacant. Management and leasing of the property was initially given to Chicago developer John Buck Co. — who established the iconic building as a destination for many new tenants over the course of almost five years.

The building was first acquired in 1989 by Boston's AEW Capital Management for the sum of $800 million. However, despite successfully bringing occupancy up by 40 percent during its term of ownership, AEW could not profit leasing space to its roster of tenants due to a continued downtown real estate depression and lower than average rental rates within the Tower.

In late 1997, the landmark tower was sold for $804 million to Toronto-based TrizecHahn, a REIT (real estate investment trust) firm. Downtown property markets subsequently began to show signs of recovery, and Sears Tower was again becoming one of Chicago's most prestigious high-rise properties. In fact, to honor Sears Tower's principal structural engineer, an adjacent street was, following a ceremony in the building, dedicated "Fazlur R. Khan Way" on July 7, 1998 by the City of Chicago.


Sears Tower, alongside John Hancock Center and Amoco Building, was the epitome of the Chicago skyscraper craze during the latter half of the 20th century — a time when the American economy was booming and tall buildings were a sign of commercial strength and success.


To meet the growing demands of the digital age, Sears Tower was upgraded March 8 of 2000 with four combination antennas, each 29.4-feet, 2890-lbs mounted on 80-foot towers at the four corners of the roof. An Erickson S-64F Aircrane was used to lift the load from the top of the parking garage skyward about one quarter mile. Four city blocks were closed off during the massive operation. However, the addition would ensure that the Chicago area was capable of receiving HDTV.

On June 4, 2000, the 220-foot western communications tower had to undergo modifications to increase the signal quality of Chicago's local NBC television station. This necessitated disassembling the existing framework via hellicopter and installing a new 75-foot, 19250-lb stack of self-supporting antenna pylons for WMAQ-29, WLS-52, and WPWR-52/22 on top of the existing support tower, thus raising the height of the building to 1729 feet.

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, the status of Sears Tower as a viable investment opportunity proved questionable. Trizec Properties Inc. finally transfered ownership to its lender, MetLife Inc., in August of 2003 after facing the growing possibility of defaulting on its mortgage. Less than one year later, however, MetLife sold its stake in the building outright to a group of three investors (including two of Larry Silverstein's group), thereby forming 233 South Wacker LLC.

The building was leased and managed by real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Inc. until 2007 when responsibilities were assigned to Chicago-based U.S. Equities Realty LLC. Seeking to revitalize and redevelop Sears Tower, owners have announced numerous "green initiatives", including possible LEED certification, aimed at reducing energy costs and positioning the Tower as a more attractive and eco-friendly destination for new tenants. Visionary plans to "paint" the building silver were also briefly considered, but never left the drawing room table.


Engineers sought different ways of emphasizing the city of ‘broad shoulders’, and the desire for Chicagoans (including their businesses) to always be bigger, bolder, and better. Sears Tower is perfectly reminiscient of a thriving, innovative period in Chicago architectural history.


The entire building has also undergone significant security improvements since 2001. Johnson Controls' Hillside office was awarded the contract to install various barricades along all street-level entrances, X-ray metal detectors in the main concourse, and electronic turnstile portals around the elevator lobby. Additionally, visitors now wishing to do business in the tower must sign-in at a security checkpoint. Any unidentified person will be immediately escorted out of the building by armed security officers.

Did You Know?
Sears Tower's continued status as the tallest building in the western hemisphere was first published by SearsTower.org. Since that time, countless newspapers and books -- even the official Website -- have increasingly cited this fact as a popular alternative to the "tallest building in North America."

Continue


Conclusion

As of 2010, Sears Tower remains the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere and one of the largest office buildings (in rentable square footage) in the United States. It also maintains the title of the world's tallest steel-framed building.

Annually 1.3 million people visit the observation deck alone, making The Big Store the 7th most popular tourist destination in Chicago (Source: Chicago Tribune, Sept 14, 2006). In addition, a recent public poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects, in commemoration of its 150th anniversary, ranked Sears Tower as America's third favourite Chicago architectural landmark.

(Sign Guestbook) (Read Guestbook)

Building Technical Data

Official Name:

Willis Tower

Popular Name:

Sears Tower

Street Address:

233 South Wacker Drive

Postal Code:

60606

Time Zone:

U.S. Central Standard Time (-0600 UTC)
U.S. Central Daylight Time (-0500 UTC)

Global Coordinates:

-87°38'11" Longitude
41°52'43" Latitude

Street Boundaries:

Wacker Drive
Franklin Street
Jackson Boulevard
Adams Street
Quincy Street (removed)

Average Occupancy:

10,200 Persons Daily

Average On-Site Traffic:

25,000 Persons Per Day

Property Manager:

U.S. Equities Realty LLC

Property Owners:

Joseph Moinian
The Moinian Group, New York

Joseph Chetrit
The Chetrit Group, New York

John Huston and Isreal Gluck
American Landmark Properties, Illinois

Model Unveiling

July 27, 1970

Groundbreaking

August 1970

Steel Erection

June 1971

Topping-Out

May 3, 1973

Initial Opening

September 1973

SkyDeck Opening

June 22, 1974

Developer

Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Chief Architectural Designer

Bruce Graham, Partner (SOM Chicago)

Principal Structural Engineer

Fazlur R. Khan (SOM Chicago)

Interior Designer

Environetics

Wind Analysis

Weidlinger Associates

Mechanical Engineer

Jaros, Baum, & Bolles

General Contractor

Diesel Construction (aka Morse-Diesel Inc.)

Electrical Engineer

Jaros, Baum & Bolles, Assoc.

Erector

American Bridge Division of US Steel

Fabricator

American Bridge Division of US Steel

Rental Agent

Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Security Integrator

Johnson Controls, Inc.

Site Area:

~3 Acres

Gross Floor Area:

~4.56 Million Sq Ft

Rentable Floor Area:

~3.81 Million Sq Ft

Parking Facilities:

160-Car Underground Garage (Wacker Drive)
1,010-Car Standalone Garage (Adams Street)

Height Above Grade:

1729-Ft (from Franklin Street entrance)

Occupiable Floor Levels:

113

Floor Plate Dimensions:

195-Ft x 195-Ft Maximum

Observatory Name:

SkyDeck Chicago

Observatory Levels:

2

Observatory Elevation:

1,353 Feet

Primary Architectural Style:

International

Primary Structural System:

Bundled Tube

Construction Materials:

Prefabricated Steel "Christmas Tree" Frame
Concrete and Steel Composite Floor Deck
Steel Truss Floor Joists

Cladding Material:

Bronze-Tinted Vision Glass
Black Anodized Aluminum Spandrel Panels
Black Anodized Aluminum Framing

Foundation Type:

114 Bell Reinforced-Concrete Caissons

Foundation Depth:

65 Feet

AM/FM Radio Transmitters:

WLIT-FM-93.9
WZZN-FM-94.7
WBBM-FM-96.3
WTMX-FM-101.9
WKSC-FM-103.5
WJMK-FM-104.3
WCKG-FM-105.9
WGCI-FM-107.5

NOAA Wx Radio Transmitter:

KWO39-162.55

Analog Television Transmitters:

WMAQ-5 (NBC)
WLS-7 (ABC)
WTTV-11 (PBS)
WWME-CA-23
WCIU-26
WEDA-CA-34
WSNS-44 (NBC)
WFBT-CA-48
WPWR-50 (UPN)
WXFT-60

Digital Television Transmitters:

WGN-DT-19 (WB)
WCIU-DT-27
WMAQ-DT-29 (NBC)
WFLD-DT-31 (FOX)
WJYS-DT-36
WCPX-DT-43 (PAX)
WSNS-DT-45 (NBC)
WTTW-DT-47 (PBS)
WPWR-DT-51 (UPN)
WLS-DT-52 (ABC)
WXFT-DT-59

Graphical comparison of Sears Tower to similar skyscrapers.

Recent news headlines about Sears Tower.

Historic news headlines about Sears Tower.

Awards and Acknowledgments:

  • "Distinguished Building Award", AIA, Chicago Chapter (1976)
  • "Award of Excellence", American Institute of Steel Construction (1975)
  • "Best Engineering, High Rise Construction Award", American Iron & Steel Institute (1975)

Visit the official homepage of

Twin Towers Alliance

Watch ABC7 Chicago's realtime Sears Tower skycams.

For those wondering about the title of the site, it is a play on 1001 Arabian Nights. And yes, storeys is an actual English word I chose for its spelling.

Copyright © 1998-2012, Randall E. Krause. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
This site is not affiliated with U.S. Equities Asset Management LLC nor 233 South Wacker LLC.
"Sears Tower" and the quadrant-extrusion logotype are trademarks of Randall E. Krause