April 13, 2022

Retail: There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Downtown Chicago

Retail suffered because of COVID-19. Two years later, Chicagoland retailers are now on the mend as mandates are lifted and threats continue to lessen.

Downtown Chicago, on the other hand, has been slower to bounce back. COVID-19 caused many to leave Chicago for more space to work remotely, and though people seem to be returning, work culture for many businesses is still largely undetermined, contributing further to retail uncertainty.

The jury is still out on when things will return to normal, but the numbers are slowly trending upward. There’s a significant increase in leasing velocity, which is a welcome sign of hope for businesses.

Some areas, however, are exhibiting a faster comeback than others. Neighborhood locations, like Lincoln Park, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Fulton Market and West Loop are already rebounding. Some rents in these areas are already back to, or above, pre-pandemic rates.

It is tourist-centric retail that remains the main concern.

Places like Michigan Avenue, State, Oak and Elm Street are going to take longer due to their dependency on foot-traffic, and retailers are having to shift gears to compensate, instead prioritizing profitability and sustainability over visibility. There is also discussion around rebranding Michigan Avenue to better attract the post-COVID consumer, and Danny Spitz, CEO & Managing Partner at Greenstone Partners, expanded on a few of the potential changes being considered.