CHICAGO, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Sears Tower, the Chicago icon and Western Hemisphere's tallest building, will have its new name of Willis Tower after Willis Group Holdings became the newest tenant, according to a statement released by the London-based international insurance broker on Thursday.
Willis Group didn't indicate when the new name would become effective, but said it got the naming rights as part of a deal with the building's owners.
Willis plans to consolidate five area offices and move nearly 500 employees into the big building from three current offices in Chicago, initially occupying more than 140,000 square feet on multiple floors as the building has 4.5 million square feet of office space in total. Willis anticipates the move will be completed by late summer.
Sears Tower, first opened in 1973, was the world's tallest building until 1996, when it was surpassed by the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is recognized worldwide as a center for business and an architectural signature of Chicago.
"We are proud to add the Willis name to the tower," said John Huston, executive vice president of American Landmark Properties, Ltd., part of the real estate investment group that owns the building.
"Having our name associated with Chicago's most iconic structure underscores our commitment to this great city, and recognizes Chicago's importance as a major financial hub and international business center," said Joseph J. Plumeri, chairman and chief executive officer of Willis Group.
But it's still questionable whether Chicagoans will call the 110-story landmark building anything other than Sears Tower.
"I have no idea about the name change, but I don't think I will call it any other name but Sears in rest of my life," Markman, a passerby around Sears Tower, told Xinhua when he was asked what his opinion was about the new name.
Sears itself moved out this building completely in 1992 and then sold its headquarters to a real estate investment group in 2004. However, the name of Sears, regarded as a major marketing tool to attract tenants and visitors, was retained by the new owners.
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