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United Airlines To Move Corporate Headquarters To Willis Tower

Willis Tower

A look at the Willis Tower (perhaps you still call it the Sears Tower) and the 311 S. Wacker Dr. building on an architectural cruise down the Chicago River. (Credit: Natalie Cheng/CBS)

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Updated 08/13/12 – 4:54 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — United Airlines headquarters will soon be contained within one iconic Chicago address.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, the corporate headquarters for United will move to the Willis Tower – the former Sears Tower – putting the executive group under the same roof as the recently-opened operations center for the airline.

For years, it was one of those Chicago icons known by a single name: Sears. Renamed the Willis Tower for a multi-national insurance company that bought the skyscraper’s naming rights long after Sears left for the suburbs, it will become home United Airlines’ corporate headquarters.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports United will become the Willis Tower’s biggest tenant, occupying 16 floors and 25 percent – more than 800,000 square feet – of its office space, with a lease that runs through 2028.

United-Continental Holdings workers already occupied 12 floors of North America’s tallest building, after moving from Elk Grove Village in 2007.

The move will also eventually put some 4,000 United employees downtown.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president Gerald Roper said United’s move to the Willis Tower “says that Chicago is the right place to have your North American headquarters, and we continue to build on that. And I think that what it will do, further, it will start attracting companies that do business with United Airlines.”

The move doesn’t really mean any new United jobs for Chicago. That came last year, when United CEO Jeff Smysek appeared with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce the new United operations center was moving downtown from Elk Grove Village. Now, its corporate officers will move from their current headquarters at 77 W. Wacker Dr., where it moved from Elk Grove Village in 2007.

The good news about United offsets, at least in part, Motorola and its parent company Google’s 4,000 layoffs worldwide, including 750 of the 3,000 workers who were to be moved from Libertyville to the Merchandise Mart. Now that move will bring 2,250 jobs to downtown Chicago.