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Exclusive look inside the Empire State Building’s $160 million makeover

Visitors to one of the most iconic buildings in the Big Apple will soon be taking in a whole new view of the New York City skyline. The Empire State Building is set to open its newly renovated 102nd floor observatory this weekend, complete with 360-degree views of New York City and beyond. It’s just one part of the Empire State Building’s massive four-year renovation.

“CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the multimillion-dollar project that will change how the skyscraper’s 4 million annual visitors see the city below it. CEO Tony Malkin is the third generation in his family to run the Empire State Building, but it’s safe to say this is no longer his grandfather’s skyscraper. Malkin is making changes. Now tourists have something to see closer to the ground. What was once essentially a hallway – and the line to the elevators – is now a multimedia, interactive museum. It pays homage to the building’s construction in 1930 and 1931 with recreations of how workers built the tower by hand. The Empire State Building went up in a little more than a year at a cost of $41 million. By contrast, these renovations are a four-year project and cost more than $160 million. Tourism brings in around $130 million to the building each year.

But if what’s new on the second floor is entertaining, what’s going on 1,200 feet above the ground is eye popping. Malkin showed “CBS This Morning” a small platform jutting from the side of the building on the 90th floor. It’s from there that workers hoisted what’s known as the cocoon – part scaffold, part construction platform to the 102nd floor. Over the course of the summer, we watched as steel walls were replaced by floor-to-ceiling glass — 24 panes each weighing about 450 pounds, installed from the outside of the building. The result: 360-degree views 102 floors above Manhattan. But why do this? It was already an iconic building, already bringing in more than $100 million per year in tourism dollars.

“What we really wanted to do was to connect with people … give them something magical. So 102 is the absolute pinnacle of that magic,” Malkin said.

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