Pedway Comeback: Foot traffic, business returning to Chicago's underground pathway after pandemic

20,000 people now use the Pedway each week - a third of the people who used it in 2019, before the pandemic.

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, April 21, 2023
Foot traffic, business slowly returning to Chicago Pedway
Despite the increase in foot traffic, the Chicago Pedway still has several vacancies. Here's how the Chicago Loop Alliance is working to attract businesses.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 Consumer I-Team has an update on the struggles of businesses in Chicago's Pedway, the underground pathway used by many in the Loop to run errands or grab a bite.

WATCH | Businesses in Chicago Pedway struggling to survive

As Chicago's Loop continues to reopen, there is another network of stores and restaurants that many people may not know about because they are underground.

As you walk underground in certain spots in the city, you may be connected to Chicago's Pedway system. Built in 1951, it has dozens of stores and restaurants and connects more than 40 blocks in the Central Business District.

Michael Edwards, CEO and President of the Chicago Loop Alliance, says underground pedestrian traffic is up. The latest numbers show 20,000 people use the Pedway each week. That's a third of the people that used to be here in 2019, before the pandemic.

"At the height of the pandemic, we had absolutely no people in the pedway which is a vital link between Metra, CTA, and all of our businesses downtown," Edwards said.

Despite the increase in people, the Pedway still has several vacancies. The Chicago Loop Alliance is working to attract businesses by keeping the area cleaner with help from the city's Streets and Sanitation Department.

The Chicago Loop Alliance also has new social service outreach experts working to help people experiencing homeless who may use the pedway for shelter. Octavion Thomas is helping people in that situation.

"They have number of shelters, they have a number of places to get something to eat, get clothes and even resources for housing," Thomas said.

Thomas said that since the program began in January, the population of those experiencing homelessness in the Pedway is down 50%.

Last April, the business owner at Millennium Tacos and Dogs and other managers told the I-Team they were still struggling to survive. Now, many say business is improving.

"What we are not seeing yet is services coming back, like dry cleaners, tailors," Edwards said. "What's really driving the downtown economy now is students, residents and visitors, and so are arts and culture, theatres, museums, concerts. Last quarter, over 800,000 people here and some of them use the pedway."

One key factor in bringing more businesses back to the pedway is bringing more people back to the office. The Chicago Loop Alliance says that the number of people who are now working in-person is just above 51%.