Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper could get $185M observation deck

CHICAGO — Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper could get a $185 million observation deck that would dangle visitors over the building’s edge and compete against the city’s two other skyscraper observatories.

Aon Center officials unveiled the observatory plans Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported . They include a glass-sheathed elevator and a feature called the Sky Summit, a glass cab with windows and see-through floors that would be lifted over the building’s side.

Designers said the project would provide a different view than observatories near the top of the city’s tallest building, Willis Tower, and the skyscraper long known as the John Hancock Center. The Aon Center overlooks Millennium Park, a popular tourist attraction.

“The location is absolutely perfect for an observatory like this,” said Phil Hettema, president of the Hettema Group, which designed the observatory.

Kiara Culmer, who was visiting one of the observatories Monday, said she wouldn’t visit three such attractions as a tourist. “So somebody is going to lose,” she said.

Aon Center’s owners believe the market can sustain all three attractions. Steve Sales, principal of the New York-based owner 601W Cos., noted that a restaurant and entertainment center is also planned for the building, and estimates the attractions could boost the buildings revenue by millions of dollars a year.

Craig Furfine, a finance professor specializing in commercial real estate at Northwestern University, said a successful observation tower would “bring in a lot more revenue per square foot than an office tenant will, even in prime real estate.”