American cities are making a comeback. After decades of urban decline, more people are now moving back to revitalized city centers. In the mid-western city of Chicago, that could mean living high above the clouds.
In the 60s, Joan Masters was your typical stay-at-home wife and mother of three children living in a suburb of Chicago. Today, she is a successful entrepreneur living and working in Chicago's John Hancock Center, one of the tallest buildings in the world. "We're seeing Lake Michigan and, if it were a clear day, we'd see the state of Michigan and the state of Indiana across the lake - it goes on for miles and miles," she says.
From her 86th-floor apartment, Joan Masters view of Lake Michigan and Chicago's shoreline is spectacular. Every morning she goes to work where she is president of Transcription Management Worldwide, a company specializing in taping and transcribing corporate meetings. Her short commute takes her, by elevator, down to the 36th floor. "Maybe they're not the fastest elevators, but they used to be," she says. "You can count the seconds that it takes to get to 86 - one, two, three, maybe 15 seconds to get to 86."
The elevators, in fact, travel 550 meters a minute, or 32 kilometers an hour. At 100 stories tall, the John Hancock Center is the tallest mixed-use building in the world. At the base is a retail area of shops and restaurants. Above that, there are more than 700 apartment units, hundreds more offices, restaurants, health clubs, a swimming pool, ice-skating rink, library, and art galleries. In addition, there are several radio and television stations and a party room that's often converted to a play area for children.
Business owner Joan Masters says there are times when she feels she doesn't have to ever leave the building. "I'm too much that way. It seems like an effort to go out and get involved in clubs. I'm just so satisfied here with my life."
Robin Rupli: Wat's the longest you've ever gone without leaving the building?
Joan Masters: "Probably several weeks! Or more."
When the John Hancock Center was completed in 1970, it was considered an architectural marvel. The sleek, black building with the slight curve in the center is 344-meters high and was constructed specifically to serve both business and residential occupants. One bank of elevators takes residents to their apartments. Other elevators are for tourists who can enjoy the magnificent views from an observatory on the 94th floor.
Randy Stancik is the Hancock Observatory's Director of Marketing. "The interesting thing about it is, half the people in the building call it home, the other half call it work and there are a couple of people that do both," he says. "And then, we have an observatory on the 94th floor that gets half a million people [visiting] a year from 80 countries. So at any given time, you have so many different things going on - it's like a city within a city. There's a 'buzz' in here that you wouldn't believe."
Residents who live in the John Hancock Building include young single professionals, retirees and people who enjoy the stimulation of living in one of Chicago's most exciting neighborhoods. Resident and business owner, Joan Masters notes the demographics of the building are slowly changing. "One by one, younger people are moving in, due to attrition, which is nice," she says. "It brings a new dimension, new life to an older building. But the building just has so many things. I don't think the Hancock Building will ever lose its prestige as a special place in Chicago - both commercially and residentially."
Joan Masters is President of Transcription Management Worldwide, based in the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois, a building she also calls home.