Mag Mile retail market a crossroads

Like other prime “High Street” retail strips around the country, North Michigan Avenue has struggled in recent years.

Jun.June 06, 2019 01:00 PM
Chicago's Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile (Credit: iStock)

Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile (Credit: iStock)


Like other so-called “High Streets” around the country, the Magnificent Mile is at a crossroads.

Chicago’s premier retail strip has seen vacancy climb to 12 percent. It has seen a number of major store closings, including Forever 21 and Tommy Bahama late last year, and with Topshop planning to soon shutter a three-floor store.

And average new leases started at $450 per square foot in 2018, down from $550 per square foot in 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Other “High Streets” like New York’s Fifth Avenue and Lincoln Road in Miami are similarly feeling the pinch after years of soaring rents, according to the Tribune.

But the Mag Mile is unique in having more malls and department stores, which keep vacancy down and provide long-term stability, experts said. Without the malls and department stores, vacancy on the strip would be 29 percent, the Tribune reports.

And even though the ongoing redevelopment of Tribune Tower by CIM Group and Golub & Company will add 48,000 square feet of new retail space, experts said there are several signs of hope along the Mag Mile.

One is the diversification of the tenants, including Starbucks’ new 43,000-square-foot cafe and roastery in a vacated Crate & Barrel. Niketown also dedicated a large space to a huge treadmill for classes and gear test-runs.

Another is Chicago’s booming tourism industry, which had a record year in 2018. Plus, the hundreds of planned condos and apartments in the Tribune Tower redevelopment are poised to bring hordes of new potential customers to go with all those tourists.

[Chicago Tribune] — Joe Ward

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