CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lightfoot announced a bold new plan to revitalize part of the downtown business district Monday.
The LaSalle Street corridor, hit hard by the pandemic, could undergo a transformation that includes adding affordable housing.
WATCH | Lightfoot announces 'LaSalle Street Reimagined' plan
There is a cloud hanging over the LaSalle Street corridor and it's got a name: vacancy.
From Washington Street down to Jackson, the signs are everywhere.
In this heart of the business district, where 85 percent of the real estate is office space, there is a 25% vacancy rate. For retail space it's even worse: 36%. Both are the highest of any area downtown.
The Lightfoot administration is looking to change that with a plan called "LaSalle Street Reimagined."
"We want to engage current owners of the buildings and current stakeholders and say give us your best ideas about what you think you can do with your buildings to make them attractive," Lightfoot said.
The plan envisions the private development of 1,000 residential units, with an incentive for affordable housing.
"The city is offering financial support for projects that make 30% of units available at an affordable rate," said Maurice Cox, Commissioner of the city's Dept. of Planning and Development.
That money would come from TIF funds, but the vision also includes bringing new retail and restaurant options to make this more than just a 9-to-5 part of the city.
"It's about helping this critical cog in the city's economic engine recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic," Cox said.
"This is mission critical for LaSalle Street," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward. "LaSalle Street's been on a slow decline, but after the riots, the looting and the pandemic it took a double body blow."
The mayor denied this is a political move aimed at shoring up reelection support from the business community.
"I'm very confident in my reelection," Lightfoot said. "I'm very confident that what you'll see is a range of support across the city."
The mayor did not specify just how much TIF money would be needed to subsidize the affordable housing units, and spending that money would require city council approval. The city hopes to select finalists by early next year.