Chicago leaders announce committee to revitalize downtown area, including State Street

Re-development of Thompson Center for Google is key to providing an anchor downtown

Evelyn Holmes Image
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Chicago leaders want to revitalize downtown
Chicago leaders gathered Thursday morning to brainstorm how to revitalize downtown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's Loop was the center of attention Thursday morning.

Leaders announced a committee to revitalize the downtown area, including State Street.

That includes making people feel safe, getting more businesses in vacant buildings and adding more amenities and dining.

It's all a part of the Chicago Loop Alliance's strategic five-year plan, which was shared during the group's annual meeting Thursday.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson spoke at the Chicago Loop Alliance annual meeting Thursday morning.

Over 400 of Chicago's business, civic, cultural and governmental leaders, along with members of law enforcement, were in attendance.

"We are huge right now on sampling inside and outside of our stores to remind people that we are here to support Chicago, and our businesses are open," Starbucks Coffee district manager Kristen Buza said.

Very much like Michigan Avenue, State Street has struggled post-pandemic to bring shoppers and residents back to the city's great street.

State Street has a record level of retail and commercial vacancies, around 30%, in 2024.

Local leaders said that's a 12% increase in empty storefronts from last year.

SEE ALSO: Chicago Loop Alliance wants to see State Street transformed into future

The group plans to use several different economic development programs that will build confidence in the street and fill vacant storefronts.

Supporters of the effort say the re-development of the Thompson Center for Google is key to providing an anchor downtown. They want to move in in the spring of 2026.

Construction could start as soon as next week.

"It's a very, very smart bet to bet on this city," said Quintin Primo, with the Capri Investment Group.

Still, the focus continues to include the difficulty of changing the perception that State Street and downtown are not safe.

"We have a lot of data that shows that there's a lot of people coming downtown, having a great time at theater, at the museums, working, just playing, and so it's a very safe place, you know, thousands and thousands of people come downtown. An occasional incident should not keep people away," Chicago Loop Alliance CEO Michael Edwards said. "Downtown is very clean. It's very safe. We have incidents, but not many, and we are working with the police department all the time."

Chicago Loop Alliance is expanding its street ambassador program, which includes security ambassadors.

There are also plans to add cultural and curb upgrades.

There's also talk about making the downtown area a business improvement district, and creating a downtown economic growth advisory committee this spring.

The move could mean millions for the area.

"Our downtown has always been a global economic and cultural engine. Its impact extends far beyond the neighborhood and suburbs that depend on its vitality," Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said.

All this could happen in time for the Democratic National Convention in August.

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