Tower-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named | Bleader



Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Fortunately, the name change won't affect the skyscraper's architecture. But it will blur the skyscraper's identity—and Chicago's identity, too.

Oh, please. Something about this reminds me of people who name their cars. It's sort of cute but it's also sort of creepy.

Sears Tower is different: Its design—strong, simple and structurally expressive—is Chicago writ large. Its name evokes the city's great mercantile tradition. The building, in other words, is firmly rooted in the prairie soil.

Let's go to the record, shall we (from Wikipedia, which does not care for your nostalgia and already calls it Willis Tower):

"Sears' optimistic growth projections never came to pass. Competition from its traditional rivals (like Montgomery Ward) continued, only to be surpassed in strength by other retailing giants like Kmart, Kohl's, and Wal-Mart. The fortunes of Sears & Roebuck declined in the 1970s as the company lost market share and its management grew ever more cautious. The Sears Tower itself was not the draw Sears hoped it would be. The tower stood half-vacant for a decade as more office space was erected in Chicago in the 1980s. The company was eventually obliged to take out a mortgage on its signature building. Sears began moving its offices out of the Sears Tower in 1992.

"In 1994 Sears sold the building to Boston-based AEW Capital Management with financing from MetLife. At the time it was one third vacant. By 1995 Sears had completely vacated the building, moving to a new office campus in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

"In 1997 Toronto-based TrizecHahn Corp (the owner at the time of the CN Tower) purchased the building for $110 million, and assumption of $4 million in liabilities, and a $734 million mortgage.

"In 2003 Trizec surrendered the building to lender MetLife.

"In 2004 Metlife sold it to a group of investors that includes New York investors Joseph Chetrit, Joseph Moinian, Lloyd Goldman, Joseph Cayre and Jeffrey Feil and Skokie-based American Landmark Properties. The quoted price was $840 million with $825 million held in a mortgage."

In other words, saying that it's "firmly rooted in the prairie soil" is delusional. It failed. Its history - first a symbol of dreams of grandeur from a retailer in a changing global economy, then a debt-laden hot potato swapped between anonymous investment firms, now named after a foreign insurance company - is perfectly representational of the city's recent history and current identity, not to mention histories of cities throughout the world in the second half of the 20th century.

One of the big reasons Chicago at least isn't, as we like to say, "Detroit," is that the city's status as a center of banking and trading has survived as other industries, like meatpacking, have come and gone. Viewed that way, "Sears Tower" is sort of a depressing name - not merely insisting that we cling to something that's gone, but that we cling to something that wasn't really real in the first place.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Add a comment