Chicago’s Riverwalk in the Loop. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file
“After an incredibly difficult year, it’s heartening to see fuller sidewalks, waitlists at restaurants and more workers returning to downtown offices,” said Michael Edwards, the Chicago Loop Alliance’s CEO and president.
As the weather warms and the city makes headway to fully reopen, the Chicago Loop Alliance’s May report shows that downtown activity is picking up.
“After an incredibly difficult year, it’s heartening to see fuller sidewalks, waitlists at restaurants and more workers returning to downtown offices,” said Michael Edwards, the alliance’s CEO and president.
“More people are checking out our webpages specifically with information on things to do downtown in the Loop. When the city fully reopens on June 11 with the rest of the state, we expect all these metrics to continue to rise.”
The alliance collects monthly survey data from its member businesses and stakeholders to track operations, occupancy levels, pedestrian activity, COVID-19 positivity rates and reopening plans.
Last month, outdoor dining in the Loop was the most popular activity overall, with outings being more attractive than indoor activities. Here are some other highlights from the alliance’s May report:
Pedestrian activity continues to rise to 45% of usual activity.
Parking bookings made online, often used by motorists making one-off or short visits to the Loop, exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic hit.
Parking garages, often used by working commuters, are at 56% of their pre-pandemic use.
The CTA and Metra combined are the most popular ways to get downtown, according to those surveyed. As the summer begins, more are starting to walk or bike to the Loop.
Hotel occupancy, a metric that is based on data from the previous month, reached 38% of normal levels in April.
Though low compared to other metrics, office occupancy exceeded 20% of its normal levels for the first time since the pandemic. Levels are expected to rise as BMO Harris, JPMorgan Chase and Citadel plan to bring a total of 10,000 workers back to their downtown offices this month and next.
The majority of businesses have some or all staff working on-site. In April, 14% of the businesses surveyed said all staff are working remote. This number dropped to 11% in May.
Employers are far more confident to have their full staff return to the Loop for work. Only 42% of employers surveyed said they are “unsure” or “other” about returning all their staff to work in-person compared to 56% in April, 69% in March and 80% in February.
The alliance created a “Back to Work Toolkit” — LoopChicago.com/BackToWork — that includes tips for getting back to work and more reopening information on restaurants, bars and new spots in the Loop.