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Loop recovery rates hit highest levels since pandemic’s impact

Posted  2 years ago  in  Trending

2 MIN READ - Since July 2020, Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA) has released monthly reports on downtown activity using a variety of data sources to track operations during COVID-19, and today released its November report. The report tracks COVID-19 positivity rates, pedestrian activity, parking volumes, hotel occupancy, number of office workers on-site and more. Office occupancy, pedestrians, and CTA ridership all recently hit their highest-measured rates since the impact of the pandemic when compared to the same period in 2019. View the full November report here.

In stark contrast to 2020, the Loop has been abuzz as holiday attractions like the Christkindlmarket, the City of Chicago’s official Christmas tree lighting in Millennium Park, and the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade returned for the public to enjoy. State Street pedestrians reached their highest monthly average yet; office human occupancy climbed to its highest point since the pandemic hit; and CTA ridership hit its highest rate compared to 2019 in October, the most recent data available. The activity continues with Loop theatres reporting packed houses and downtown retailers continuing to experience the holiday rush.

“After many downtown holiday traditions were postponed or taken virtual in 2020, it’s wonderful to see the Loop so vibrant and spirited this season,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “The sidewalks are bustling, offices are fuller than at any point since the pandemic hit, and the energy is palpable.”

Pedestrian activity

Pedestrian impressions on State Street increased to the highest average monthly rate yet to 60.7 percent of 2019 levels. November reported the second- and third-best weekly visitor totals in the pandemic recovery. Events like the Official Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade and Black Friday shopping attracted tens of thousands to the Loop.

“Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic, but the resilience of our talented artists and venues as Chicago’s cultural scene continues to safely reopen gives us renewed hope for better times ahead,” said Commissioner Erin Harkey, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “Revitalizing our city’s arts and culture scene is essential to our post-pandemic recovery, and the arts must be at the center of bringing Chicago back — in the Loop and in all 77 neighborhoods. I am thrilled that we were able to bring back our beloved summer, fall and holiday events along with a renewed sense of normalcy this year.”

Office occupancy

Despite declines in human office occupancy during Thanksgiving week, levels increased to their highest rates yet when compared to 2019. Chicagoland’s office occupancy rose to 39.1 percent of normal in late November — the highest since CLA began collecting this data. The Chicago metro area is keeping pace with the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., areas, and is exceeding occupancy levels of the Bay Area.

“Building owners and managers, as well as business leaders, have spent the last year and a half reimagining the office to make it not only safe for people to come back to, but enticing,” said Kirsten Hull, VP of Portfolio Management for EQ Office. “There continues to be a strong desire for community and collaboration, which is evident in Chicago, where we’re encouraged to see a steady increase in occupancy. With the transformation we’ve made at Willis Tower, we’re seeing firsthand the importance of creating an office destination and developing experiences that help foster engagement and provide a high level of flexibility to our tenants, particularly in a post-pandemic world. A well-designed and thoughtful office environment deepens collaboration, strengthens a shared sense of belonging and allows for quiet moments that give way to meaningful work.”

Parking reservations

The seasonal decline in parking reservations was recovered by a 42-point surge in digital bookings across the Loop in November. Parking reservations have been consistently over 100 percent of their 2019 levels since July 12, representing the first sector whose operations have fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parking garages

Parking garage volumes dipped slightly to 52 percent as Chicago entered the holiday season, compared to 56 percent of 2019 levels in October. The increase in parking reservations may indicate a driver preference for on-demand bookings over weekly or monthly parking passes. Parking operations are expected to increase in 2022 once more employees return to work.

Hotel occupancy

Hotel occupancy in October rose to 59 percent of 2019 levels, marking the third straight monthly increase. This is the second-highest rate since pre-pandemic occupancy and within a 5-point range of July’s all-time high during the recovery.

"It's great to see that downtown hotel occupancy was on the rise in October for the third straight month after a summer peak," said Sandi Robinson, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Godfrey Hotel Chicago. "We expect occupancy rates to climb even closer to 2019 levels in November and December. It's been wonderful to see downtown Chicago so vibrant again, and holiday visitors play a big part in that."

CTA ridership

CTA ridership levels steadily grew in October to reach their highest confirmed levels since March 2020. The agency reports 55 percent of 2019 levels for the week of Oct. 25. Station entry data finds that Loop stations like State/Lake and Clark/Lake remain some of Chicago’s busiest.

Systemwide, the RTA reports that Metra’s October figures are at their highest since March 2020, with Union Pacific North service at equal or greater demand since 2019. Metra’s Year-to-Date recovery is up 158 percent from 2020 ridership levels.

“Visitors and Chicagoans alike made their way back in the Loop using public transportation throughout November,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “With the unveiling of the City of Chicago’s Christmas tree, the return of holiday performances like the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” and the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, our downtown is vibrant with activity and joyous merriment.”

For those Loop workers who continue to return downtown, Chicago Loop Alliance has created a Back to Work Toolkit that can be found at LoopChicago.com/BackToWork. The toolkit includes insider tips for working downtown in the Loop for those who never left, as well as those who are returning for the first time. Find useful information on how to safely get downtown; what’s new in the Loop; what the Loop looks like these days; lunch and happy hour spots; and more.

Chicago Loop Alliance invites people to share their experiences downtown on social media using #BackInTheLoop.

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