May 21, 2024 - Real Estate

Iconic downtown skyscraper "Big Red" turns 50

big red building

Photo courtesy of SHVO

This year, 333 South Wabash (formerly the CNA Center) is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The big picture: The 44-floor tower is a huge part of the Chicago skyline, famous for its red color.

Flashback: The building was built in the early 1970s. The developers originally designed it with a bronze color but changed it to red to stand out against the stoic black and gray skyscrapers of the time.

State of play: Today, the rectangular-shaped tower is the 54th-tallest building in Chicago and still the only red skyscraper in town.

  • The building's interiors were newly renovated, and include a new food hall and an elegant bar that will open in June, with up-close views of the "L."
GIF of a train wizzing by a bar window
The "L" rumbles by the bay windows on the second floor of the 333 South Wabash building. GIF: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

What they're saying: "There's a real energy to this building," property general manager Louise Harney tells Axios.

The intrigue: The building is bucking the trend surrounding Loop office building vacancies, largely because it houses Northern Trust and Chicago Housing Authority offices.

  • Harney says they have about 3,000 workers in the building on weekdays.
  • "To keep workers here, we have to make it as attractive and as exciting as possible," says Harney.
Photo of a skyline from the roof of a skyscraper
Photo from the roof of 333 South Wabash Street. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

What's next: The building plans to celebrate its anniversary with events year-round, including tours during Open House Chicago in October.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.

More Chicago stories