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Entry concourse renovated, new artworks unveiled at 360 CHICAGO at former John Hancock Center

Former John Hancock Center features renovated 360 CHICAGO entry concourse
Former John Hancock Center features renovated 360 CHICAGO entry concourse 00:28

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Visitors to the former John Hancock Center will soon have a much better view from the time they walk in the front door.

The entire entry concourse to the 360 CHICAGO observatory has been renovated. This is the area that visitors pass through to get into the elevator to the top.

The newly-renovated concourse was unveiled on Thursday.

Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations

"As one of Chicago's most popular attractions, it is important that our experience and the new digital installations honor the building and the city's legacy, while reflecting the vibrant and diverse city that 360 CHICAGO resides in," 360 CHICAGO Managing Director Nichole Benolken said in a news release. "The entry concourse is now an engaging journey of its own for guests to experience as they make their way to the 94th floor."

The entryway now features digital panels featuring welcome messages in different languages and Chicago-related facts. There are also several Chicago-centric installations—including an immersive cinema exploring the history of Chicago and the former John Hancock Center.

Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations

Also featured is an animated photo gallery room with audio and lighting, showing everyday life, culture, and celebration.

Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations  

In the elevator bay, the new installation "Lake Effect" connects visitors from Lake Michigan to the sky, 360 CHICAGO said. Animated light modes correspond to weather pattern studies to mimic the always-changing nature of the conditions on Lake Michigan. Several design aspects also reference the iconic X-bracing of the Hancock building.

Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations

Meanwhile, Chicago area artist Katie Chung has reimagined the 360 CHICAGO CloudWalk outdoor viewing platform on the 94th floor – with a new painted floor and window mural called "Locals Only." The mural displays the cultures, landmarks, and architecture of Chicago with colors that pay homage to the Chicago flag, the ornamental architecture in Chinatown, and the grand entrance to Little Village.


Three abstract acrylic works displaying the Chicago skyline by artist Valerie Mazza—better known as Streeterval—also appear in the new concourse. New floor-to-ceiling curtains by artist Lauren Asta also now appear in 360 CHICAGO's CloudBar.

The renovations were led by the West Loop design agency NEXT/NOW, which was also behind the United Airlines Airshop Innovation Center in Arlington Heights, and the digital fan experience at Chicago Cub Statue Row at Wrigley Field.

Former Signature Room space remains vacant

The two floors at the former John Hancock above 360 CHICAGO remain vacant, after the famous  Signature Room restaurant—which was not affiliated with 360 CHICAGO—went out of business last year.

The Signature Room at the 95th restaurant, and the cocktail lounge on the 96th floor, abruptly closed for good this past September, citing "severe economic hardship."

The Signature Room under its current name and incarnation opened in 1993. But there has been a restaurant in the space as long as the John Hancock Center has been open.

The restaurant was formerly known simply as the 95th Restaurant, and dated back to 1970. The Signature Lounge, that famous spot for a cocktail a floor up on the 96th floor, was previously called Images.

In March, a judge ordered $1.5 million in back pay for former Signature Room employees, after ruling that the restaurant and lounge failed to give workers proper notice when the business closed.

UNITE HERE Local 1, the union representing Signature Room workers, sued Signature Room operator Infusion Management in October, claiming Infusion violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) by failing to provide 60 days written notice of the mass layoffs that resulted from abruptly closing the restaurant and lounge on Sept. 28.

No reports have surfaced so far about any possible future tenant for the space. But 360 CHICAGO houses its own cocktail lounge, called CloudBar – which is accessible with an observation deck admission ticket.

CloudBar offers specialty cocktails such as the Heavenly Martini, inspired by the KitKat Lounge with its famous drag shows on North Halsted Street; the Gold Coast Manhattan, inspired by the Gold Coast and not available in Chelsea, SoHo, NoMad, or anywhere else in Manhattan; and the 'L' Fashioned, an old-fashioned inspired by the Loop. The bar also features local beers, coffee options from Kikwetu Coffee, and mocktails.

While CloudBar is two floors down from the old Signature Lounge, it remains the highest cocktail lounge in Chicago, 360 CHICAGO said.

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