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United commits to Willis as HQ, with lease through 2028

 Dean Hattenberger Network Director United Airlines Network Operations Center Willis Tower. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times Monday June 18 2012

Dean Hattenberger Network Director of the United Airlines Network Operations Center in the Willis Tower. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times Monday, June 18, 2012

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Updated: September 14, 2012 6:15AM

The corporate headquarters of United Airlines will move down the street to the Willis Tower, putting the company’s executive force under the same roof as its recently opened operations center, airline and city officials are announcing Monday.

United Continental Holdings Inc. workers already occupy 12 floors of North America’s tallest building. The new move will add four more floors for a total of 830,000 square feet in a lease that will run through 2028. The Sun-Times reported in March, citing real estate sources, that United was looking to sublease its current headquarters, lease more space and make Willis Tower its new headquarters.

“This deal shows United’s commitment to Chicago for a generation,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement released Sunday. “It ensures our hometown airline will be here and means that quality jobs and economic activity will remain in the area for years to come.”

No date was released for the move, which will make United Continental the largest tenant in the tower, occupying about 25 percent of the building’s space.

Ultimately the company will have 4,000 employees downtown.

United, lured by more than $15 million in TIF funds and other subsidies, initially moved its headquarters downtown to 77 W. Wacker from northwest suburban Elk Grove Village Township in 2007.

In 2009, the city put up another $35 million to encourage United to move its operations center from Elk Grove to the Willis Tower at 233 S. Wacker.

Since then, United merged with Continental and decided to move Continental’s operations center from Houston to Chicago. The company would have had to return money to Chicago if it did not keep jobs here.

Still unknown is the fate of United Continental’s current headquarters space, 250,000 square feet at 77 W. Wacker, where the airline’s lease runs until 2022.

The company quietly put the space on the market in March, according to reports.

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