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CHICAGO-Occupancy at Sears Tower is 89% with four deals filling more than 50,000 sf. The deals include a 22,000-sf expansion by law firm Latham & Watkins, which is now the seventh-largest tenant in North America’s tallest building at 135,000 sf.

Not only is occupancy above building manager Trizec Properties Inc.’s earlier expectations of 85% to 87%, Sears Tower is doing slightly better than the overall West Loop office market. Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co. recently pegged the West Loop vacancy rate at 13.3%.

While the activity handled by leasing director Nancy Fendley and Nicola Krohn continues to contradict predictions of a mass exodus from the 3.5-million-sf building in the wake of September 11, 2001, at least one new tenant claims it was attracted to arguably the most recognized piece of the Chicago skyline.

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP is moving across Jackson Blvd. from 311 S. Wacker Dr. to 9,011 sf. “We consider ourselves a first-class firm, so we wanted to be associated with a nationally-recognized building like Sears Tower,” says managing partner Scott Wylie in a statement. Dan Maslauski of The Staubach Co. represented the Austin, TX-based law firm.

Latham & Watkins, which was represented by Julien J. Studley’s John Goodman and Andrew Kelly, is near the top of the Sears Tower seniority list, having been at 233 S. Wacker Dr. since 1982.

Also staying at Sears Tower is Salomon Smith Barney, which renewed an 18,483-sf lease for space to house its retail banking group. While competing investment firm Goldman Sachs has agreed to co-anchor 71 S. Wacker Dr., Salomon Smith Barney now has 83,000 sf at Sears Tower. John Ziesmer of Julien J. Studley represented the tenant.

Toji Trading also is taking 4,000 sf at Sears Tower.

While West Loop property owners continue to face competition from new office buildings leasing up or beginning development, Trizec Properties SVP Stephen Budorick suggests Sears Tower has many of the attributes offered by its newer competitors.

“Executives looking at the building are regularly impressed by Sears Tower’s tremendous telecommunications capacity, enormous back-up electrical systems, ultramodern security and variety of efficient floor designs that allow for many different office designs,” he says.

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