Observation deck operator buys former Signature Room and lounge 

360 Chicago aims to repurpose Mag Mile space “to create something spectacular”

360 Chicago Buys Former Signature Room on Michigan Avenue
360 Chicago’s Nichole Benolken with 875 North Michigan (LinkedIn, Getty)

The former Signature Room and Signature Lounge on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile has a new owner with plans to breathe life into the shuttered restaurant.

The operator of the 360 Chicago observation deck has acquired the 95th and 96th floors of the former John Hancock Center, at 875 North Michigan Avenue, directly above its 94th-floor observation deck, the Chicago Tribune reported

The seller was a venture of Madison Capital and PGIM Real Estate, which still owns the ground-floor retail space of the building. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

While 360 Chicago has not finalized its plans, managing director Nichole Benolken confirmed the space will not reopen as a restaurant but will remain open to the public. 

“We’re not going to put an exclusive private club up there,” Benolken told the outlet. “We’re uniquely suited, given our investment into and presence in the building, to create something spectacular.”

The closure of the Signature Room in September epitomized the Mag Mile’s struggles that have persisted since the pandemic. A decrease in downtown foot traffic, coupled with an increase of e-commerce, delivered a huge blow to the famed shopping district, where retail vacancies soared to 30 percent last year. 

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However, 360 Chicago’s investment provides a reason for optimism, as it demonstrates potential for innovative uses of vacant properties, said Magnificent Mile Association CEO Kimberly Bares.

360 Chicago, owned by the French company Magnicity, bought the 94th floor in 2012 for $18.5 million and has since invested $17 million into the building, enhancing its appeal with attractions like Tilt, a moving glass ledge, and CloudBar, the highest bar in Chicago. Magnicity operates similar observation decks in cities like Rotterdam, Berlin and Paris, with plans to open another in Warsaw’s Varso Tower next year.

The closure of the Signature Room remains contentious. Former employees sued the management firm for violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. A federal judge ruled in favor of the employees, awarding them $1.5 million in back pay, but they have yet to receive compensation, prompting further legal action by their union, Unite Here Local 1.

While challenges persist, foot traffic on the Magnificent Mile is starting to rebound, with establishments like the Starbucks Reserve Roastery replacing former retail spaces. Retail broker Anthony Ciaravino noted that the new investments are promising, but the area still needs a variety of restaurants to thrive. 

In the broader vision for the Mag Mile, the Urban Land Institute has proposed revamping the area with features like a pedestrian bridge, pocket plazas and sidewalk cafes. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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