Who Owns Chicago’s Tallest Skyscrapers?
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Chicago’s biggest towers are, not surprisingly, owned by some big names. Let’s explore their histories, controversies and places in pop culture, which are equally larger-than-life.
1) Willis Tower
233 S Wacker Dr
Height: 1,450 feet
Owners include: Joe Chetrit, Joe Moinian and American Landmark Properties
Intrigue: Chetrit may be New York’s most enigmatic landlord, but his stake in Chicago’s tallest building helped cement a reputation that grows despite his press-shyness.
Formerly known as: Sears Tower
Tussles: Lost a battle with 1 WTC over whether the NYC tower’s spire should be included in its official height. Without it, Willis Tower would still be king.
Spider-Men: Costumed Dan Goodwin made the first successful outdoor climb of the tower in ’81, with an arrest being his prompt reward after seven hours of suction cups and exertion. Alain “Spiderman” Robert followed in ’99, though he was thwarted by fog.
2) Trump International Hotel and Tower
401 N Wabash Ave
Height: 1,389 feet
Owner: Trump Organization
Construction: It was originally managed by The Apprentice winner Bill Rancic. Cantilevered into a section of 420 million-year-old limestone bedrock underground, the building was the tallest formwork structure in the world at completion.
Controversy: The Donald found himself in hot water when the large signage on his namesake tower teed off Chicagoans already wary of the celebrity developer.
Bragging rights: One of only three American towers left on the list of the world’s 20 tallest (it’s number 13).
3) Aon Center
200 E Randolph St
Height: 1,136 feet
Owner: Piedmont Office Realty Trust
Formerly known as: Standard Oil Building
Refacing: The world’s tallest marble-clad building when completed, Aon needed to be completely refaced with Mount Airy white granite in the early ‘90s thanks to the deterioration of its thin Italian Carrara marble.
Intrigue: JLL’s HQ, the building made a cameo in the 2011 movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
‘Hood facts: Aon Center anchors the burgeoning Lakeshore East neighborhood (including Jeanne Gang’s Aqua and the obligatory Mariano’s) and is the perfect place to eavesdrop on Lollapalooza.
4) John Hancock Center
875 N Michigan Ave
Height: 1,128 feet
First resident: Ray Heckla, the building’s original engineer, moved in before completion in April 1969 with his family. And engineering was key—the building’s concrete pouring strategy had to be majorly tweaked to reach 99 stories, an expensive endeavor that brought in John Hancock to take over the project.
Owner: Funny you should ask. The non-residential portion of the building was sold off in four pieces in recent years (for $410M) to maximize profits, so: a Hearn-led venture owns the office space and parking; French firm Montparnasse 56 owns the observation deck; Prudential Real Estate Investors has the retail and restaurant space; and Boston-based American Tower Corp has the antennas.
Pop culture fame: Featured in Poltergeist III in ’88, and Chris Farley was tragically found dead there in his 60th floor apartment in ’97.
Second city no more: The Hancock was the first building outside of NYC to be taller than 1,000 feet.
5) The Franklin North Tower
227 W Monroe St
Height: 1,007 feet
Owner: Tishman Speyer
Formerly known as: AT&T Corporate Center, Franklin Center
Tussles: The official height shot up from 886 feet to 1,007 feet after the Sears Tower v. Petronas controversy in the mid-‘90s, when the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat decided to include ornamental spires in measurements.
Going green: The Franklin joined Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Building Initiative in 2012. Its tenant-engaging sustainability initiatives have included lighting retrofits, improving energy efficiency across data centers and long-term energy management via monitoring software and real-time data.
Fun fact: It’s the tallest building constructed in Chicago in the last quarter of the 20th century. Think it’s time we top ourselves, folks.