By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — Is Chicago’s Magnificent Mile at risk for massive store closures? Just two months ago it was the epicenter of unrest. Then this week there was a murder on Oak Street and Michigan Avenue. All of that is on top of a pandemic that has taken a toll on everyone. The Mag Mile businesses aren’t unique, but Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said it is the recent violence and spike in burglaries that is causing real concern now.

A Chicago icon, the Magnificent Mile’s 13 blocks are known across the world. It’s a draw for tourists and a serious boost to the city’s bottom line. What would the city look like without all of this? Hopkins says we could find out.

“Some of the suburban retailers are starting to see some upticks in their activity,” he said. “On Michigan Avenue? We are not seeing that at all.”

There are existing vacancies, some stores still boarded up, others dealing with plummeting sales, what Hopkins calls a spike in theft, and safety concerns keeping people away.

“We’re losing tax revenue, and we are losing sales tax on a daily basis,” he said. “If this trend continues, we won’t have a viable downtown. And it’s not going to be that long. We’re talking a few years. Privately they’re telling me they can’t sustain this. They can’t continue at the level they’re at right now, and if it keeps up, we are going to see a rash of business closures in the downtown area.”

Hopkins was in a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and business owners in the area who were expressing their concerns, when the shooting happened Tuesday afternoon. Rapper FBG Duck was shot and killed. Two others were seriously injured.

“We have to have additional patrol resources dedicated to downtown right now,” he said. “This is getting out of control, rapidly. If people are afraid to come downtown, they fear for their life, they’re not going to want to shop here. They’re not going to want to live here, and downtown will gradually hollow out.”

Neighborhood groups echoed those concerns, specifically about safety.

“Nordstrom and Bloomingdales and Ferragamo, and all large Marquee stores that are on the avenue here attract people from all over the world and all over the U.S. and all over Chicago,” said Mike Riordan of the River North Residents Association. “It’s one thing to lose control one weekend, but then it’s another thing for this stuff to keep on going. It opened the floodgates to a bunch of brazenness and lawlessness that we’ve never seen here before.”

In the lates crime statistics from the district the area is in, which were updated August 2, murder is up in 2020 compared to 2020. Burglary, motor vehicle theft and shootings are also up. Other crimes like theft and aggravated battery are down.

“We’re hitting a warning right now,” said Hopkins. “This is a warning. It’s an opportunity for us to turn it around. We tried to impress upon that to the mayor and to the police superintendent. We’ll see if they respond.”

Chicago Police did not address long term plans but say out of an abundance of caution they have upped their presence in the area right now with more foot, bicycle and vehicle patrols.

Tara Molina