Chicago’s Loop neighborhood is continuing its slow recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the omicron variant caused cases to spike last month, data released today by the Chicago Loop Alliance shows it didn’t prevent people from returning to the neighborhood. Office occupancy, pedestrian activity and Metra ridership all showed positive year-over-year results in January, though some metrics showed slight declines from December, possibly due to the end of the holiday season.
Michael Edwards, Loop Alliance president and CEO, attributed the recovery to return to work policies and entertainment and art attractions bringing people downtown.
“Despite predictions that the downtown recovery would be stifled by Omicron, Chicago Loop Alliance has seen a consistent maintenance of metrics for key industries like transportation, office, and pedestrian activity,” he said. “This data is bolstered by accounts of office workers beginning their transition back to the workplace.”
The Loop neighborhood, at the heart of the city’s central business district, has been one of the areas most adversely impacted by the coronavirus, due to a high number of office towers and a high density of people. Chicago’s office market crashed in 2021 and recently, owners of Loop office buildings have started defaulting on their properties.
Pedestrian activity and office occupancy rates in January nearly doubled over the year prior. While pedestrian activity on State Street dipped by just over 2 percent from December, rates nearly doubled over January 2021. Data shows a strong recovery after a steep drop in pedestrian activity the first week of the year, likely due to the end of the holiday season. Office occupancy grew by over 13 percent from a December low. While office occupancy hasn’t returned to where it was in November, the January occupancy rate of 27.5 percent shows strong progress over the 14.5 percent rate in January 2021.
Metra and Chicago Transit Authority ridership also showed strong numbers. While Metra ridership dropped slightly from December’s pandemic peaks, January ridership is up by more than 100 percent over last year. CTA ridership increased steadily week-over-week through the month.
Metra Chief of Staff Janice R. Thomas said the recovery “was slowed in January by the rise of the Omicron variant, which affected worker and leisure travel downtown, but Metra ridership continues to trend upward, and we expect continued positive growth as workers return to work and restrictions are eased.”