601W Companies’ wins approval for $185M Aon Center overhaul

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601W Companies won approval for its $185 million overhaul of the Aon Center, including plans for an observation deck “thrill ride” that will dangle passengers over the roof of the 83-story building.

The Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday approved the New York firms proposed overhaul of the Downtown skyscraper, including adding a glassy elevator to the building’s exterior, an 82nd-story observation deck as well as the carnival-ride-like rooftop attraction.

The exterior elevator shaft will rise on the southwest side of the building and will feature a double-decker elevator that will take up to 80 passengers at a time to the 81st and 82nd floors of the office tower..

601W will redevelop those floors to make way for a new observation deck, restaurant and bar. The primary observation deck will be on the 82nd floor.

On the rooftop, patrons will be able to enter a steel-and-glass enclosure that will lift them up and over the Aon Center’s rooftop for about 30 seconds, according to the developer.

Additional ground floor space will be added to the Aon Center as part of the improvements, and a new pavilion will be erected, city officials said.

Some audience members told the Plan Commission they worried the new exterior additions could detract from the facade of a famous Chicago building, which is the third tallest in the city and was the tallest for one year before the Willis Tower was completed in 1975.

“This is right in our front yard,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “We want to encourage a little more development on this.”

601W Companies bought the building for $713 million in 2015 before refinancing it earlier this year with a $678 million loan.

The company also recently bought the office tower at 1 South Wacker Drive, with plans for roughly $90 million in renovations there. It is also working on a $300 million gut rehab of the Old Main Post Office, where it’s already signed Walgreens as an anchor tenant.

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