Chicago’s third-tallest tower is one step closer to receiving a $185 million, tourist-centric makeover. New York-based developer 601W first proposed adding a dual set of 1,000-foot-plus-tall glass exterior elevators and a rooftop observation deck to the 83-story Aon Center in May 2018, and now the addition has reportedly won the support of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.

601W has enlisted the help of Chicago’s Solomon Cordwell Buenz to design the additions, which include a “sky summit,” a glassy pod that would dangle visitors off of the roof’s edge, the aforementioned external elevators at the rectilinear building’s northwest corner, a cantilevering entrance hall at the base of the tower’s southeast corner, and an observatory on the 82nd and 83rd floors.

The HVAC system at the top of the building has already been moved to elsewhere in the tower, and 601W will be removing two-thirds of the exterior columns on the top floors to open up the views.

Rendering of the Aon Center's proposed rooftop observation center

A rendering of the Aon Center’s roof, where the 1,000-plus foot elevator will terminate. The glass-bottomed rocker is also visible. (Courtesy 601W Companies)

Alderman Reilly’s support was far from guaranteed, and he recently rejected Related Midwest’s plan for two forked skyscrapers at the Chicago Spire site. Still, according to Crain’s, a spokesperson for Reilly has confirmed that the alderman is allowing the Aon Center to proceed.

If the additions pass muster with Chicago’s Plan Commission and City Council, then the Aon Center will grow from 1,136 feet to 1,184 feet tall on account of the elevator addition on the roof. That’s quite close to the nearby Vista Tower, which will be 1,191 feet tall, but not enough to keep the Aon Center from falling to Chicago’s fourth tallest building when the Vista Tower is complete.

601W, also the owner of the massive Chicago Post Office (which is undergoing its own modernization initiative), estimates that the additions to the Aon Center will lure in an additional two million tourists per year. If approved, this would be the first tourist attraction at the Aon Center in the building’s 45-year history, and 601W has indicated that it will begin the two-year construction process immediately following a successful City Council vote.

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