Hoteliers, real estate win chance to show off Chicago for DNC

City, industry gain opportunity to revive hospitality sector, counter high-crime narrative

Illinois Restaurant Association's Sam Toia and President Joe Biden with the Chicago skyline
Illinois Restaurant Association's Sam Toia and President Joe Biden with the Chicago skyline (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

While Chicago’s hospitality is likely to get a temporary jolt of demand from the city’s selection as host of next year’s Democratic National Convention, the role also provides a potential boost to the city as a broader real estate market.

President Joe Biden and his party have picked Chicago to host next year’s Democratic National Convention, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, the Republican Party chose nearby Milwaukee to hold its convention, emphasizing the political importance of the Midwest.

Hoteliers, especially those with assets near the United Center where events will take place, are the direct benefactor. But real estate players and the city itself also have a chance to show off Chicago as a market — one full of architectural gems — to a large audience.

Plus, the newly elected Mayor Brandon Johnson has incentive to tackle the perception held by many, including real estate professionals, that the city and its market are plagued by crime with his first year in office, in order to take full advantage of the attention the convention will bring the city.

Of course, the convention could help bolster Chicago’s decaying hotel and restaurant scenes, plagued by the pandemic. The downtown office occupancy rate is about 50 percent less than pre-pandemic numbers, and restaurateurs greatly miss the business that stemmed from fuller office buildings.

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“We still need to get our conventions back to pre-pandemic numbers,” Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told Crain’s. “This definitely helps restaurants because that’s putting a lot of people in hotels, which then people in hotels want to go to our great restaurant scene.”

With tens of thousands of people flocking to the city, businesses are hoping the influx of visitors will bleed into the neighborhoods outside of the Central Loop as well.

“It’s going to be up to the city to be able to pipeline some of that business and some of that tourism into the surrounding spaces outside of downtown,” Cecilia Cuff, owner of Bronzeville Winery, told the outlet.

— Quinn Donoghue

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