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333 South Wabash
333 South Wabash in 2009; view looking east
General information
Location333 S Wabash Ave
IL 60604
United States
Coordinates41°52′38.7″N 87°37′32.3″W / 41.877417°N 87.625639°W / 41.877417; -87.625639Coordinates: 41°52′38.7″N 87°37′32.3″W / 41.877417°N 87.625639°W / 41.877417; -87.625639
Construction startedMarch 1970[1]
Roof600 ft (183 m)[1]
Technical details
Floor count44
Floor area1,299,990 sq ft (120,773 m2)
Design and construction
ArchitectGraham, Anderson, Probst & White

333 South Wabash (formerly CNA Center, nicknamed "Big Red")[2] is a 600-ft (183 m), 44-story skyscraper located at 333 South Wabash Avenue in the central business district of Chicago, Illinois.


333 South Wabash is a simple, rectangular International Style building, but it is unique in that the entire building was painted bright red by Eagle Painting & Maintenance Company, Inc., turning an otherwise ordinary-looking structure into one of the most eye-catching buildings in the city. It was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and was completed in 1972.[1]


As of 2014, CNA occupied 65 percent of the tower.[3] Other occupants included The Chicago Housing Authority and United Way.[3][4]

In December 2015, CNA announced it would sell the structure and relocate to a new facility at 151 North Franklin which would be renamed CNA Center. The company and developer, John Buck Co., expected the move to take place in summer 2018. As part of the transaction, Buck purchased the Wabash Street building for $108 million and would redevelop it.[5]

In August 2017, Buck and Northern Trust announced an agreement for the bank to lease 465,000 square feet (43,200 m2) of the building. The lease, which includes signage and naming rights, will consolidate approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Northern Trust workers from several sites around Chicago and take place in 2020.[6]


Originally known as Continental Center III, in reference to the original moniker of CNA Financial Corporation, Continental National American Group,[7] both CNA Center (formerly CNA Plaza) and the neighboring CNA Center North (Continental Center II, built in 1962 at 55 East Jackson Blvd.) adjoined and were painted red. The shorter red building was later restored to its original gray tone in 1999.[8] The two buildings remain joined at the second floor: CNA's Conference Center uses space on that floor, but all entrance and egress to it is through CNA Center.[citation needed] The company's previous headquarters from 1943 to 1962 had been Metropolitan Tower (310 South Michigan Avenue, aka Continental Center I).[9]

In 1999, a large fragment of a window fell from the building and killed a woman walking with her child. Windows had been cracking at the building ever since it had been built in 1975 due to thermal stress of uneven heating caused by the building’s inset windows. CNA Financial, a property insurance company, later paid $18 million to settle the resultant lawsuit. All of the building's windows were replaced in an expensive retrofit.[10][11]

Lighted window messages

Chicago skyline with the 333 South Wabash (far left) showing the Chicago Blackhawks' logo, the Smurfit-Stone Building saying Go Hawks and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower saying Hawks Win the night after the 2009–10 Chicago Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, viewed from the Petrillo Music Shell lawn in Grant Park

Utilizing a combination of lights on/off and 1,600 window blinds open/closed (and sometimes foamboard cutouts), the windows on 333 South Wabash are often used to display lighted window messages, typically denoting holidays, remembrances, and other events denoting Chicago civic pride, such as when the Blackhawks played in and won the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and when the Cubs made their 2016 World Series run. Building engineers use a computer program to plot which windows need to be lighted to create the proper message.[12][13]

Position in Chicago's skyline

311 South WackerWillis TowerChicago Board of Trade Building111 South WackerAT&T Corporate CenterKluczynski Federal Building333 South WabashChase TowerThree First National PlazaMid-Continental PlazaRichard J. Daley CenterChicago Title and Trust Center77 West WackerPittsfield BuildingLeo Burnett BuildingThe Heritage at Millennium ParkCrain Communications BuildingIBM PlazaOne Prudential PlazaTwo Prudential PlazaAon CenterBlue Cross and Blue Shield Tower340 on the ParkPark TowerOlympia Centre900 North Michigan875 North Michigan AvenueWater Tower PlaceHarbor PointThe ParkshoreNorth Pier ApartmentsLake Point TowerJay Pritzker PavilionBuckingham FountainLake MichiganLake MichiganLake MichiganThe skyline of a city with many large skyscrapers; in the foreground is a green park and a lake with many sailboats moored on it. Over 30 of the skyscrapers and some park features are labeled.


  1. ^ a b c d CNA Plaza on
  2. ^ Ori, Ryan (December 16, 2015). "CNA selling 'Big Red,' moving HQ to new office tower". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Daniels, Steve (March 24, 2014). "Why jobs and revenue are going opposite directions at CNA". Crain's Chicago Business.
  4. ^ Tekippe, Abraham (December 14, 2012). "United Way moving to CNA Center". Crain's Chicago Business.
  5. ^ Ori, Ryan (December 16, 2015). "CNA selling 'Big Red,' moving HQ to new office tower". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Ori, Robert (August 9, 2017). "CNA building gets new tenant — and maybe a new name — as Northern Trust signs deal". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-01-17.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "CNA Plaza North". Emporis. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Landmark Designation Report" (PDF). Commission on Chicago Landmarks. July 7, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  10. ^ Chicago Architecture Info CNA Center Accessed July 13, 2014
  11. ^ Kiernan, Louise (February 14, 2002). "CNA window death settled for $18 million". Chicago Tribune.
  12. ^ Ecker, Danny (June 12, 2013). "Chicago buildings showing Blackhawks pride during Final". Crain'S Chicago Business. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  13. ^ Rumore, Kori; Berlin, Jonathon (October 27, 2016). "How Chicago's iconic buildings light up for the Cubs". Chicago Tribune.