Chicago’s Loop has had a rough year, but are the clouds finally beginning to part over one of the darkest periods in its recent history? Since July 2020, the Chicago Loop Alliance, an member-based organization of downtown businesses, has been publishing monthly reports of key metrics such as pedestrian activity, hotel stays, and parking to provide regular insight on economic the health of the Loop. The group’s latest report offers some signs of hope, though it’s still a contrast from where things were before the pandemic.
In the Chicago Loop Alliance’s April report, there was a month-over-month increase for a few crucial indicators. The biggest increase was in parking utilization, which has steadily increased since the winter. According to the report, parking volumes in April reached 87% of what a what would be considered a normal year, or the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, hotel occupancy also saw a big increase, hitting 36% of normal, pre-pandemic levels, the report indicates.
Indicators that have been consistently erratic include CTA ridership, pedestrian activity and office occupancy. However, one important consideration is that the data for office occupancy that the Chicago Loop Alliance relies on for the report includes a sampling of just 12 buildings. While CTA ridership is trending upwards, it’s still only at 40% of normal levels. And pedestrian activity ended up going in a negative direction month-over-month, likely due to the cold spring weather, the report suggests.
In addition to the graph of Loop activity indicators, the organization also provides the results of a survey to member organizations. When asked about whether companies plan to return to the office, the large majority expressed that they weren’t quite ready to do so. Upwards of 45% of participating member businesses indicated that there was no set timeline for returning to the office while only 17% said that all staff have already returned to the office. Another 21% said that staff is expected to return by Q3 2021 while only 7% said that all staff would return to the office during the second quarter of this year.