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Don't Change John Hancock Center's Name, 2nd Ward Candidates Agree

 Alyx Pattison and Brian Hopkins.
Alyx Pattison and Brian Hopkins.
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Getty Images (Hancock); Provided

MAGNIFICENT MILE — When it comes to the John Hancock Center, both candidates vying to be its alderman agree: Don't change the name.

Both Brian Hopkins and Alyx Pattison, who are headed to a runoff election next month for 2nd Ward Alderman, told DNAinfo on Wednesday that they would join Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and local preservation groups striving to grant the brawny Mag Mile tower landmark status in light of a report this week in the Sun-Times.

Reilly's ward covers most of Downtown, but the 100-story steel tower at 875 N. Michigan Ave. falls in the redrawn 2nd Ward.

According to the Sun-Times report, the owner of the Hancock's commercial space is proposing a glass recording studio on the tower's plaza that would shine bright lights onto the Magnificent Mile. The owner, Chicago-based Hearn Co., is also considering selling the tower's naming rights.  

The news was immediately met with opposition from Reilly and historic preservation group Preservation Chicago, which vowed to give the John Hancock Center city landmark status before such changes could take effect. The news comes the same week that Chicago's tallest skyscraper, Willis Tower, changed hands, creating uncertainty over the future of that building. 

David Matthews explains why neighbors are concerned:

When reached by phone, both Pattison and Hopkins agreed that any changes to the John Hancock Center should be made in the interest of its neighbors, not the landlord.

"Vegas-style neon lights are totally inappropriate for the neighborhood," Pattison said. "People have to remember that that part of Michigan Avenue is not just a tourist destination, it’s a residential neighborhood, too."

Added Hopkins, a former president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents: "The reason that the Hancock plaza exists as open space on Michigan Avenue today is because of the residents of Streeterville, who fought successfully to preserve it."

Both candidates also agreed a change to the tower's name, granted by a life insurance company decades ago, would be more egregious.

"The Hancock is an iconic structure in the city of Chicago, it should remain as the type of building that is featured on postcards, and it should be called what it has been called: the John Hancock building," Hopkins said. "John Hancock to me is not an insurance company; John Hancock was a hero of the American revolution."

Pattison wasn't sure landmark status could extend to the tower's name, but also agreed the name should remain the same.

"There are only a few buildings we think of when we think of our skyline, and that's one of them," she said.

Hearn Co. is part of a group of investors that acquired the tower, which also includes private condominiums, in 2013. Some of the new ownership's proposed changes to the building's interior have already drawn a lawsuit from perhaps the Hancock's most prominent tenant: the Signature Room & Lounge. Hearn President and CEO Stephen G. Hearn declined to comment through a company representative.

Hopkins and Pattison are facing off in a runoff election April 7 after a contentious general election last month. Hopkins led a crowded field with nearly 29 percent of the vote, with Pattison slightly trailing after garnering 24 percent of the 2nd Ward electorate. 

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