City Club of Chicago hosts discussion on state of Mag Mile shopping district

Evelyn Holmes Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
City Club of Chicago hosts discussion on state of Mag Mile
The City Club of Chicago hosted a discussion Wednesday on the state of the Magnificent Mile shopping district on Michigan Avenue in River North.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's famous shopping district, the Magnificent Mile, has taken a hit since the pandemic, with many businesses leaving.

Retail leaders now say the Mag Mile is coming back and they have hope for the future.

Business leaders look to combat the ongoing issue of how to bring locals and more tourism back to Michigan Avenue.

"We very much believe we are experiencing a district on the rise," The Magnificent Mile Association President and CEO Kimberly Bares said.

Her message was shared during a discussion Wednesday hosted by the City Club of Chicago.

"For us, the good news is that we really see foot traffic and attendance back to pre-pandemic levels," 360 Chicago Observation Deck managing director Nichole Benolken said.

The panel said downtown is showing signs of a post-pandemic recovery, even though it may not look like it.

"Perception of crime, work from home trends, retail vacancies have given us more than our share of challenges," Bares said.

SEE ALSO | Mag Mile continues to dwindle with Grand Lux Cafe closure, but experts say there may still be hope

The Mag Mile is the area of Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River and Oak Street.

According to data from The Magnificent Mile Association Despite, there were 14.5 million visitors in 2023. About 65% of the city's hotel rooms generated $16.3 billion in revenue between 2019-2023. However, Michigan Avenue still has a high 30% retail vacancy rate.

While some blame the economy and safety issues, a representative from a retail real estate brokerage firm, Mid America Real Estate Corporation, said trends in the neighborhood retail locations can't be ignored.

"This will all cycle... we're seeing that momentum of the cycle began to shift as we balance between the needs of the landlord and the needs of the tenant," said Stan Nitzberg with Mid America Real Estate Corporation.

Some retailers continue to find success. The Starbuck Roastery, which is the world's largest Starbucks, and David Yurman are both doing well.

"We have such a great traffic pattern and people want to spend their money with us," David Yurman flagship store manager Logan Lenker said.

With the help of law enforcement, around 30 Chicago police officers now walk the beat along the avenue.

To help battle the negative, the association hopes to spruce up Michigan Avenue in time from the Democratic National Convention in August.