CHICAGO (CBS) — Disturbingly high vacancy rates – that is the state of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile today – with stores still closing up and moving out a year after the mile was hit by looters and crushed by the pandemic.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina on Wednesday asked the city what it’s doing to rev that economic engine back up – because those vacancies directly affect the city.READ MORE: Jordan Hassell Charged With Making Multiple Social Media Threats Targeting Chicago Public Schools
We are told the vacancies are a direct hit to Chicago’s bottom line – with an impact on tourism, too. And we have learned the Magnificent Mile, along Michigan Avenue from Oak Street south to the Chicago River, is about 30 percent vacant right now.
But there are plans in place to try to change that.
Macy’s, Gap, Express, Brooks Brothers, Stuart Weitzman – they are all in the lineup of the latest to leave Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
The 13-block stretch is known across the world, but it continues to see retailers pack up and move out.
“We are at a low point in terms of the Mag Mile’s reputation,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd). “We are at a high point in terms of retail vacancy.”
Hopkins called the vacancy rate here “disturbingly” and “unacceptably” high, and said it’s “near historical highs.”
He called the Mag Mile a city priority right now.
“We want to know we’ve turned a corner,” Hopkins said.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: Case Count Declines For 3rd Consecutive Week; Infection Rate Lowest Since July
The reason, he said, is because the empty storefronts on Michigan Avenue don’t just impact the immediate area. The Mag Mile is a tax engine of the city that generates $1.7 billion in property taxes alone.
“We need to recover and regain our form to convince tourists that Chicago is a destination,” Hopkins said.
But as it is, nothing set to move into the Macy’s space – the flagship for Water Tower Place – despite the rumors circulating for months. There is nothing set to move into numerous other spaces either.
We asked the President of the Mag Mile Association, Kimberly Bares, for an update on new business and possible developments.
Her response was, “Nothing I can talk about yet.” But she added: “We’re seeing a return of people onto Michigan Avenue – shoppers, tourists, visitors. It’s very heartwarming.”
Bares said the hope, heading into summer, “You’ll see some new activations happening here this summer.”
And with foot traffic picking up on the Mag Mile now, she said: “There is some interest in the vacant space. We expect to see some new leases signed in the coming weeks.”
“This district is so critically important to the economic health of the city of Chicago,” Bares added.MORE NEWS: Obamas Return To Chicago For Groundbreaking Of Presidential Center Tuesday
We checked in with CBRE, the commercial real estate firm listing many of the vacancies here now. They did not have a comment on this story.