Construction halted for Aon Center observatory in Chicago due to coronavirus pandemic

Construction halted for Aon Center observatory in Chicago due to coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO (AP) — Construction of an observatory atop Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper will not start for almost another year due to the pandemic.

Aon Center property owner 601W Cos. and tourist attraction operator Legends plan to begin work on the observatory in the second quarter of 2021, further delaying the opening date, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The $185 project is expected to open in 2023, said building general manager Matthew Amato.

The Tribune reported in February that construction was supposed to start this fall, with plans to open in 2022.

The project will include an exterior glass elevator tower, a pavilion for guest entry and a two-level observatory featuring a partial 83rd floor for entering the thrill ride, Sky Summit, which will lift visitors over the building’s edge for 30 to 40 seconds.

Many businesses in Chicago were shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker designated construction an essential industry and some Chicago projects continued.

The Aon Center delayed construction to provide more time for a potential treatment or cure for the coronavirus and to see if any plans needed to be redesigned, said Amato of real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle.

“It involves putting a lot of people into elevators to get them to the observatory, which isn’t possible right now,” Amato said. “Because of the pandemic and the social distancing requirements that would be necessary for a venue such as that, we have to make sure before we have to make any changes that we would understand what they might be.”

New York-based 601W had planned to build an observatory overlooking Millennium Park since it acquired the building for $712 million in 2015. The developer estimates the project will generate annual revenue of $30 million to $40 million.

Once the project is completed, Chicago will have three observatories like New York, the only U.S. city to have that many. Chicago also has Skydeck Chicago in Willis Tower and 360 Chicago in the former John Hancock Center.

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