Proposed Aon Center Observatory will put tourists over the edge

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Aon Center will soon be able to flaunt its jaw-dropping views with an observatory, glass elevator and “pod ride” that is coming to its 82nd and 83rd floors.

On May 14, The Chicago Loop Alliance and Alderman Brendan Reilly met with community members at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans for an observatory to cap the Aon Center tower located at 200 E.Randolph St.

Representatives from developers 601W Companies, architectural firms SCB and The Hettema Group, and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates presented designs for the observatory, highlighting the effect the family-friendly attraction will have on Chicago’s tourism industry.

“[The observatory] would also have a very positive impact on the area,” said Mark Karasick, managing director of 601W Companies. “We commissioned a study which found that more than $900 million in direct economic impact will be generated over the next 20 years due to this venture.”

Slides shown at the meeting detailed how the new observatory will transform Aon Center into a world-class destination and help maintain the building’s financial health and iconic real estate status.

To get to the top, visitors will take the external glass elevator—which will be the tallest in the U.S.—traveling at 1,200 feet per minute. The elevator will be accessed via a separate entrance pavilion on the east side of the building that takes visitors down escalators to a walkway at lower level three near Lower Randolph Street, according to SCB design principal Martin F. Wolf. Once at the base of the elevator and on the way up, “views will be quite spectacular,” Wolf said.

Visitors will experience floor-to-ceiling views with interactive multimedia attractions, along with other activities, snacks and drinks, according to Phil Hettema, president of The Hettema Group. They can also check out the Sky Summit pod ride which will lift visitors seated in a see-through capsule over the south edge of the building.

“You will get an absolutely unforgettable view of Millenium Park,” Hettema said. “We just want to give you an experience that’s unlike anything anybodyhas ever seen.”

Many of the residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the tourist attraction’s impact on traffic in New Eastside.

Peter Lemmon from Kimley-Horn and Associates shared the results of a traffic study and proposed widening sidewalks by the pavilion entrance along Columbus Street by 15 feet to accommodate the increase in foot traffic, re-striping crosswalks and establishing a dedicated bus zone. Both Reilly and Lemmon assured residents that options to improve traffic in the area, both related and unrelated to the Aon Observatory, are being considered.

More information about the Aon Center Observatory can be found at aoncenterobservatory.com

Published June 3, 2018

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