Will Aon Center be Chicago’s Next Skyscraper to Sport an Observation Deck?


Chicago, Illinois - October, 2013 - 010a copy

Better late than never, Chicago’s third-tallest building may soon get into the observation deck business.  Crain’s Chicago Business reports that some of the potential new owners of the Aon Center at 200 East Randolph Street want to open the upper reaches of the stately skyscraper to the public.

Aon Center - Chicago, Illinois - July, 2005 - 004

The Aon Center in 2005, before it had neighbors trying to muscle in on its turf.

The 83-story building in Chicago’s New Eastside is currently for sale, and expected to fetch well in excess of half-a-billion dollars.  Citing a flyer touting the sale, Crain’s reports that JLL, which is marketing the tower, estimates an Aon Center observation deck could bring the new owner $30 million a year in new revenue.

The Aon Center has incredible unobstructed views across Grant Park, Lake Michigan, and The Loop.  Even its semi-obstructed views to the north and west are pretty awesome, too.  As part of its connection to the city’s pedway system, the skyscraper has an extensive below-street-level shopping arcade, part of which could be converted into a ticketing and staging area for visitors to the observatory.

Currently there are two other observation decks in Chicago: Skydeck Chicago, formerly the Sears Skydeck, at the Willis Tower (233 South Wacker Drive) and 360 Chicago, formerly the Hancock Observatory, at the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue).  Both have been competing against one another aggressively in recent years, adding amenities like cafes and temporary skating rinks, as well as unique ways to stand, sit, or otherwise dangle above the city below.

Other current ways of getting elevated views of Chicago include:

  • Take a ride on the Navy Pier ferris wheel
  • Splurge for a romantic dinner at Cité, the restaurant on the 70th floor of the Lake Point Tower at 505 North Lake Shore Drive
  • Have a business lunch at Everest, the restaurant on the 40th floor of Four40 at 440 South LaSalle Street
  • Take your bended knee to the SkyChapel atop the Chicago Temple Building at 77 West Washington Street
  • Go watch a trial at one of the upper level courtrooms in the 31-story Daley Center at 55 West Randolph Street
  • To get a preview of what an Aon Center observation deck might be like, you could join the Mid America Club on the 80th floor of that skyscraper.
  • If the 103rd-floor Skydeck Chicago at the Willis Tower is too high for you, you might join the Metropolitan Club, which is on the 67th floor of the same building.

Chicago has long been a city where people have wanted to look out from tall buildings.  Skyscrapers that at one time had public observatories include One Prudential Plaza, Tribune Tower, the InterContinental Hotel, 6 North Michigan Avenue, and the Kemper Building. There was also once the Navy Pier AeroBalloon, an itinerant observation balloon that spent time in Chicago in 2009.

Location: 200 East Randolph Street, The Loop


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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  1. Thanks for the additional perches.

    Who would chose Aon with those tiny windows? Lunch at the Hancock is very reasonable — I think the brunch buffet is just $20 for great food — and it’s right off the Mag Mile.
    The Sears will always have that majestic view, with the 45 degree angle and lighting from the south.

    But as I’ve said, the best skyline composition, 360-degree views, and accessible location will be the Tribune-II redevelopment.

    Also, I took my grandma to “Tilt” and she called it a joke! Even if the building didn’t taper, tilting would make no difference!! I’d call it a waste of money, but they probably make so much!

    Post a Reply
    • Daniel Schell

      I, for one, would love to have an observation deck here, Frank. I have friends who work in Aon Center, and their photos looking south over Millennium and Grant Parks are spectacular. Of course, I could spend hours staring out any window in downtown Chicago, so maybe I’m just easily entertained :) But yes, I’d pay to go up there.

      Post a Reply
      • This year, I was up there for an evening banquet on the south end and it is incredible! A very classy building. But I can’t see it as an observation deck.

        The windows are deep-set from both the inside and outside, and not floor-to-ceiling because of air vents at the bottom. But the (very posh) west-facing bathroom’s windows were floor to ceiling.

        Dreamy views but there would be turn-taking at the narrow windows.

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  2. Editor

    The advantage Aon would have over Willis is location. It’s right in the middle of where 90% of the tourists go anyway, so adding it to their itineraries is a no-brainer. To get to Willis requires a trip to a sector of downtown with nothing else to offer the average tourist. Most tourists have to make a decision between Hancock or Willis, and choose Willis because of height. But if you can get a view without the hassle, why be bothered to head way over to South Wacker?

    As for the windows, I’ve never looked out from Aon, myself. But a quick Google Image Search shows no shortage of spectacular photographs taken from the upper reaches of Aon.

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