Tower has lofty plans for tourists Topping: Chicago's John Hancock Center has closed its 94th-floor observation deck to make improvements.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's the view that draws more than 500,000 visitors a year -- almost 1,400 a day -- to the 94th-floor observation deck of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. But soon there will be even more incentive to visit the 1,127-foot-tall magnet anchoring the Magnificent Mile's north end.

The John Hancock observatory, shuttered since Jan. 1, is getting a face lift.

"This is the first time since 1970, when the building opened, that the observation deck is closed," said Jill Lewis of U.S. Equities Realty, which manages the Hancock Center. "They really want to make this bigger and better. This is the topping off of the building."

The observation deck of the 100-story landmark building at 875 N. Michigan Ave. is going high-tech.

The bare-bones 94th floor, with only a gift shop, a small office and coin-operated telescopes, will soon feature interactive video and state-of-the-art computer imaging designed to inform and educate visitors on what they are seeing out the windows. And, of course, there is the view.

The 94th floor ticketing area is to be moved to the ground-level concourse, where visitors will be able to watch a video before boarding the elevator ride to the top of the building. The target date for reopening is in early May. Visitors who arrive in the meantime will receive coupons for a dollar off entry to the improved deck, officials said.

The Hancock tags itself "The World's Most Recognized Building," but it is the Sears Tower on the other side of downtown that pulls in the most visitors -- about 1.5 million to the 103rd floor annually.

A sign in the Skydeck of the Sears Tower still makes the claim "world's tallest," even after the construction of twin towers in Malaysia whose spires top the Sears' 1,454 feet.

Pub Date: 1/26/97

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