Aon Cen­ter ob­ser­va­tory to open in spring 2022

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - Ryan Ori [email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @Ryan_Ori

A lit­tle later than ex­pected, Chicago’s third ob­ser­va­tory is com­ing into view as the owner of the Aon Cen­ter pre­pares to start build­ing the long-dis­cussed $185 mil­lion ad­di­tion.

The sky­scraper’s owner, 601W Cos., ex­pects to be­gin con­struc­tion on the yet-tobe-named ob­ser­va­tion deck over­look­ing Mil­len­nium Park in the third quar­ter of this year, said Aon Cen­ter gen­eral man­ager Matthew Amato.

The tourist at­trac­tion is ex­pected to open in spring 2022, he said.

That open­ing date is about a year and a half later than the one 601W cited in De­cem­ber 2018, as the project neared zon­ing ap­proval from the city.

Since that time, 601W has fi­nal­ized a deal with an­other New York-based firm, Leg­ends, to run the ob­ser­va­tory.

“The 20-year agree­ment took a long time to ne­go­ti­ate, but now we’re ex­cited to get go­ing on it,” Amato said.

Leg­ends also formed a joint ven­ture with 601W to share own­er­ship of the ob­ser­va­tory, Amato said.

Leg­ends op­er­ates fa­cil­i­ties and pro­vides con­ces­sions and other ser­vices to many well­known sports venues and tourist at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing the One World Trade Cen­ter’s ob­ser­va­tory, Yan­kee Sta­dium and the Rose Bowl.

The ven­ture is now in talks for con­struc­tion fi­nanc­ing to pay for the ob­ser­va­tory ad­di­tion, Amato said.

The two-level space will in­clude a restau­rant, bar, event space and vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences. The main at­trac­tion will be a thrill ride called the Sky Sum­mit, which will lift en­closed cabs filled with vis­i­tors over the build­ing’s edge for 30 to 40 sec­onds.

Work is ex­pected to oc­cur si­mul­ta­ne­ously on sev­eral as­pects of the project, in­clud­ing adding a glass el­e­va­tor tower to the ex­te­rior of the build­ing at 200 E.

Ran­dolph St., Amato said.

There also will be a 9,000-square-foot pavil­ion built on the south­east side of the prop­erty for guests to en­ter, and a walk­way built un­der­neath the of­fice tower lead­ing to ob­ser­va­tory el­e­va­tors on the north­west side.

Atop the Aon Cen­ter, space for­merly used for me­chan­i­cal sys­tems on the 82nd floor will be con­verted into an ob­ser­va­tory with views of the park, Lake Michi­gan and the sky­line. A par­tial 83rd floor will pro­vide an area for vis­i­tors to en­ter the thrill ride.

The Aon Cen­ter, com­pleted in 1973 and pre­vi­ously known as the Stan­dard Oil Build­ing and the Amoco Build­ing, is Chicago’s third-tallest sky­scraper.

At 1,136 feet tall, it trails only Willis Tower (1,451 feet) and Trump In­ter­na­tional

Ho­tel & Tower (1,389 feet). When it’s com­pleted nearby this fall, 1,191-foot­tall Vista Tower will knock the Aon Cen­ter down to No. 4 on Chicago’s tallest build­ings list.

When the Aon Cen­ter ad­di­tion is com­plete, Chicago will join New York as the only Amer­i­can city with three ob­ser­va­to­ries. Chicago’s oth­ers are Sky­deck Chicago in Willis Tower and 360 Chicago in the for­mer John Han­cock Cen­ter on North Michi­gan Av­enue.

The Aon Cen­ter’s owner, whose other Chicago projects in­clude The Old Post Of­fice re­de­vel­op­ment, es­ti­mates its new ob­ser­va­tory will gen­er­ate $30 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue. 601W bought the Aon Cen­ter for $712 mil­lion in 2015.

The Tribune in Fe­bru­ary 2018 first re­ported that 601W was look­ing into adding the glassy ex­te­rior el­e­va­tor tower to help cre­ate an ob­ser­va­tory, and in May 2018 the land­lord pub­licly dis­closed its plans.

Soon, the area just north of Mil­len­nium Park will be a con­struc­tion zone. Across the street from the Aon Cen­ter, an af­fil­i­ate of Chicago-based CA Ven­tures is about to be­gin con­struc­tion of a 46-story apart­ment tower on a va­cant lot at 222 N. Stet­son Ave.

SOLOMON CORDWELL BUENZ

A 9,000-square-foot pavil­ion will be built on the south­east side of the Aon Cen­ter for guests to en­ter, and a walk­way will be built un­der­neath the of­fice tower lead­ing to ob­ser­va­tory el­e­va­tors on the north­west side.

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