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Hancock Building Could Lose Its Signature Name

By Selena Fragassi in News on Mar 17, 2015 9:00PM

Photo credit: Ajit Chouhan

Could the John Hancock be losing its “signature”? That is the scoop Michael Sneed posed in a column that ran in the Sun-Times Monday. The rumor is that the Hearn Company—which owns a bulk of commercial space in the landmark building—has some ideas for improvement, largely stemming on the possibility that they could sell off naming rights ensconced in some gaudy illuminated signage.

Though the Hearn Company would not make a comment, a pitch given to Aldermen Brendan Reilly and Bob Fioretti last year set forth the idea to build “a glassy enclosure to house a recording studio, which would encroach on the plaza — and emblazon it with a huge sign which could essentially rename the entity,” said an unnamed source, further adding, “The renaming would also involve the caplets over the doors of the prestigious building, which are inscribed with the John Hancock name.”

The news doesn’t exactly come with good timing, as just days have passed since the announcement that Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, would be sold once again to private equity real estate investor The Blackstone Group for a whopping $1.3 billion, a record breaker for Chicago and allegedly the highest price ever paid for a U.S. office building outside New York, according to Crain's. With the sale could also come a name change leaving the status of our majestic skyscrapers merely blowing in the wind and could bring us steps closer to becoming the next Times Square or Vegas strip. It’s something preservationists have been fighting for years, heated up after the debut of the Trump Hotel and Tower sign.

Marketwatch has said the new developments have “highlighted a turbulent period for Chicago real estate,” also lumping in controversial projects such as the Obama Presidential Library, Chicago Riverwalk, Lucas Museum and even the Wrigley Field bleachers as further evidence. Though Commercial Property Executive sees a different side to the story, saying the recent move “takes place at a time when the West Loop office submarket is exhibiting continued strength.”

The tumultuous changes to Chicago’s landscape are something even the mayoral candidates can’t agree on, with neither able to yet propose a transparent plan for the city’s future in recent debates. There’s no question that times are changing for Chicago but whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

“Who would have ever believed Marshall Field & Company would have disappeared, or the Sears Tower,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said to Sneed. You might want to say goodbye and sign off the John Hancock building—just in case it’s your last chance.