Chicago Loop Alliance sees increase in foot traffic, proposes closing State St. to vehicles over summer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Loop Alliance has proposed shutting down State Street once a week on Sundays this summer to bring more pedestrians downtown and revitalize businesses in the Loop as the city begins to emerge from its COVID-19 shutdown.

The group said they're seeing more foot traffic than expected in the Loop already.

In July of 2020, things were looking bleak in the Loop. Pedestrian traffic was at only about 20%of pre-pandemic levels.

Now, the latest Loop Alliance data from March shows foot traffic at about 56% of what it used to be. Not back to normal by any means, but a vast improvement.

"Pedestrian counts, parking volumes, and even ridership on the trains, it's all going in the right direction. Finally," said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards.

To bring more people and excitement to the Loop, the Loop Alliance is in talks to shut down State Street to vehicle traffic once a week on Sundays this summer from Lake to Madison, bringing businesses and customers out in the street.

"Food and beverage, arts and culture, active recreation. Come down and do yoga in front of the Chicago theater," Edwards said.

"I think it's going to be great exposure for all the businesses. You know the more exposure we get right now, the better," said Amy Lawless, owner of The Dearborn restaurant. "Not just the restaurants. Every business is struggling to get people in their doors."

Lawless said she's seen a slow increase in foot traffic every week since her business reopened about a month ago and she's eager to participate in Sundays on State.

Scott Shapiro, owner of Syd Jerome Menswear on Clark, is slightly skeptical of the idea, but he's willing to try it.

"My knees actually hurt from pivoting so much, because we got to keep redefining ourselves trying to bring in new business, trying to address our customers needs," he said. "I would entertain anything that somebody comes up with that is going to generate business."

And shoppers agreed.

"I'll come out, enjoy the time. That seems like a fun thing to do. Get everybody out," said State Street shopper Tigist Desalegn.

Sundays on State is aiming for a July 11 start. And while the improvements Loop Alliance has seen are encouraging, there is still a long way to go.

The wildcard at this point is in-person staffing levels at Loop businesses in the coming months.
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