Home ONLINE MALL FOR SHOPPING On Chicago's Magnificent Mile, shops battle amid pandemic

On Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, shops battle amid pandemic

Virtually a half-century after opening, Water Tower Place, the once-bustling retail mall on the north finish of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, stays shiny marble on the surface, however inside it is dropping a few of its sparkle.

Macy’s, which anchors the south finish of the constructing, introduced plans earlier this month to shut in just a few months, abandoning a greater than 300,000-square-foot gap.

In June, restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You closed Foodlife, credited by some as Chicago’s first meals corridor, and Mity Good Bar & Grill. Each had been there for 27 years. One other Water Tower retailer, Hole, which has been closed for the reason that early days of the pandemic, introduced it might not reopen.

Elsewhere on Michigan Avenue, there are retailer closing indicators at Hole, which is anticipated to shut its flagship this month, and at Specific, which an worker stated will shut in February. Former Apple, Dylan’s Sweet Bar, Na Hoku and Roots shops are vacant, and as is a former Topshop retailer throughout the road from Water Tower Place that briefly hosted a Toys R Us-themed pop-up exhibit. Subsequent door, Columbia Sportswear stays boarded up and briefly closed.

How successfully Water Tower Place can fill its empty areas — amid a pandemic that has devastated the retail business and accelerated adjustments in how folks store, in addition to looting incidents which have examined town — will assist decide the well being of Chicago’s premier industrial road.

Macy’s exit is “not a shock, however the truth that it is occurring remains to be a bucket of chilly water within the face due to what it symbolizes,” stated David Stone, founding father of retail brokerage Stone Actual Property. “Michigan Avenue has been seemingly invincible, and that is telling us that it is not invincible.”

Macy’s area, which spans all eight flooring of the vertical mall in addition to a mezzanine stage, is on the market for the primary time for the reason that mall opened greater than 45 years in the past.

The department-store chain occupies 323,812 sq. ft, together with 227,212 sq. ft of promoting area, the corporate stated.

Then a Marshall Subject’s division retailer, it was the biggest tenant when Water Tower Place opened in late 1975. The Marshall Subject’s title disappeared in 2006, and the shop has continued to function as Macy’s since then.


“This would be the largest retail area presently available on the market in Chicago, and positively the biggest availability on North Michigan Avenue in a minimum of a era,” stated retail dealer Greg Kirsch, the Midwest retail chief at Cushman & Wakefield. “And it comes at a troublesome time.”

Macy’s, which has been scaling again in Chicago and all through the nation, stated it plans to shut after a clearance sale lasting eight to 12 weeks. Its State Avenue flagship stays open.

“The covid-19 challenges could have been the nail within the coffin, nevertheless it’s most likely been a very long time coming,” Gabriella Santaniello, CEO and founding father of retail analysis agency A Line Companions, stated of Macy’s exit from Water Tower.

Macy’s, which introduced plans to shut 125 shops nationally in February, has extra shops than it wants, and its suburban mall areas are usually stronger than metropolis shops, she stated.

Of their heyday, department shops signed typically decades-long leases for comparatively tiny rents, in trade for the big variety of consumers they attracted. Macy’s has been paying a small fraction of the going price on the Magazine Mile, the place first-floor rents in high areas topped $550 per sq. foot throughout a growth lately, in keeping with business specialists.


Discovering a alternative for a retailer of Macy’s measurement shall be particularly tough in the course of the pandemic, when few retailers want to develop. It offers proprietor Brookfield Properties the chance to usher in new retailers and reconfigure the mall, specialists stated — if it might line up new tenants throughout a shaky financial system.

In an announcement, Brookfield acknowledged huge adjustments could also be coming to the property however stated it’s going to want town’s assist.

“Macy’s departure from Water Tower Place presents us with a chance to repurpose a big quantity of sq. footage with a rebalanced mixture of retail, eating, leisure, grocery, health, medical and workplace area,” stated Chris Pine, govt vp of anchor and field leasing a at Brookfield Properties.

“To satisfy this chance and ship a brand new imaginative and prescient for Water Tower Place, we are going to want important assist and collaboration from our companions on the mayor’s workplace, alderman’s workplace, tax assessor’s workplace, the Magazine Mile Affiliation and the local people,” Pine stated.

Brookfield might add thousands and thousands of {dollars} per 12 months in rental revenue by changing Macy’s with a sequence of smaller, high-rent outlets. Macy’s first-floor area alone may very well be value greater than your complete eight-story flagship presently brings in, Kirsch stated.

The massive emptiness additionally brings a possible probability to reconfigure the mall’s entrance, which incorporates stairs and cascading water fountains, he stated.

“Covid evokes grand plans,” Kirsch stated. “It is a unhealthy time now, however finally North Michigan Avenue stays related and areas will fill.”


A couple of dozen consumers stood exterior Macy’s because it opened final week, hoping the clearance gross sales had begun but unhappy concerning the impending exit.

“We misplaced Lord & Taylor, now Macy’s. They drew the foot site visitors,” stated Cheryl Cornett, 74, who lives within the space. “I am involved for Michigan Avenue. It won’t be so magnificent.”

Lord & Taylor, one of many authentic anchor tenants at Water Tower Place, closed in 2007, not lengthy after Marshall Subject’s transformed to Macy’s. A number of shops, together with an American Woman flagship, mixed to fill Lord & Taylor’s area.

Every flooring at Water Tower Place had only a handful of consumers strolling round on a current morning and at many shops, workers outnumbered clients. A normally bustling Starbucks on the second flooring has closed. Abercrombie & Fitch has but to reopen and in a handful of different vacant storefronts, shows marketed different outlets within the mall.

The mall felt “actually quiet” in contrast with earlier than the pandemic, stated Maria Ibaraz, 26, of Chicago. She and her sister Frida, 18, have been the one clients at ladies’s attire retailer Altar’d State. Ibaraz stated she would miss having Macy’s there, even when she normally prefers procuring at shops like Without end 21.

With far fewer workplace employees and vacationers, foot site visitors has declined by about 50% to 60% round Michigan Avenue, in keeping with Magnificent Mile Affiliation CEO Kimberly Bares.

“We’re one of many nice avenues of the world, and it is incumbent upon us to stay one of many nice avenues. That will imply doing issues otherwise,” Bares stated.


Julia Cathey, 57, of Matteson, In poor health., who was at Macy’s Wednesday, stated she doubts she’ll return to Water Tower Place typically as soon as the shop closes. She’s additionally involved about smash-and-grab robberies and different incidents within the space.

“I do not really feel as protected coming down the previous couple of years,” she stated.

Macy’s was amongst shops vandalized and looted throughout civil unrest final summer season, however there have been earlier incidents on the mall as properly, together with a gunshot fired exterior Macy’s seventh-floor entrance in 2018. Nobody was reported struck.

Since January 2019, a curfew on the mall bans unsupervised teenagers on Friday and Saturday evenings. The mall stated it had been having points with disruptive teenagers for months and imposed the curfew shortly after an incident involving 60 younger folks gathered on North Michigan Avenue. Some have been believed to be concerned in an assault on folks at a close-by Purple Line station and the mall was compelled to shut early that day.

Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward contains the northern stretch of the Magnificent Mile on which Water Tower sits, stated Macy’s already deliberate to shut its Water Tower Place retailer earlier than violent incidents final summer season. However he stated it is truthful to query how massive a job final 12 months’s unrest, and even perceived issues of safety, have performed in different retailer closures.

Along with supporting the Water Tower curfew, Hopkins in 2019 helped block plans by Dave & Buster’s to maneuver into the vertical mall, after residents expressed considerations about fights and different incidents exterior the chain’s close by location on Clark Avenue, which has since closed.

Neighbors have broadly supported different ideas, such because the high-end Spirits & Spice retailer that opened in Water Tower in the course of the pandemic, Hopkins stated.

His constituents “need Water Tower Place to succeed and so they’re open-minded,” Hopkins stated. “You’ll be able to’t overstate the significance of it. It is the highest nook on the highest retail block on the Magazine Mile.

“I do not consider the Macy’s area goes to stay vacant very lengthy.”


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