CHICAGO - Census data shows Chicago has the nation’s fastest growing downtown, yet look around and you will see a lot of empty retail space and boarded up windows.
Taking a walk down State Street, it isn’t bustling like it used to be pre-pandemic. It means you may see "for rent" signs instead of discount signs in some store windows. FOX 32 counted at least eight business that have gone under.
In part, many national retailers decided to close their doors because of financial woes.
"We have had some issues with people feeling less safe," said Michael Edwards, President and CEO of Chicago Loop Alliance. "We do have safety ambassadors. We have unarmed overnight security. We work closely with the Chicago Police Department."
Two blocks to the east from State Street is the Mag Mile, where more than 20 stores are empty.
"It is sad to see some of the stores closed, since this is such a busy area. It could be post COVID, I don’t know why," said Sarah and Emily Mulcahy.
The twin sisters are traveling nurses from the Detroit area and say Chicago is not the only city having this problem.
"We’ve seen a lot closed in our hometown as well," said Emily.
Shoplifting and smash-and-grabs are adding fuel to the fire.
In the zip code 60611 that covers the Mag Mile and Streeterville, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Officer has issued 38 charges for retail theft — many were hit with felony charges.
In the same area code, there's been charges for 70 gun cases and 23 have been convicted.
"I just want to stay away from the crime and the violence," Shannon Wax said. "I don’t want to be a part of that. I just want to stay safe from the pandemic - that is also really important to me. Primarily I’m shopping on line. I don’t like it, but it’s what I do."
It’s not all doom and gloom. At least 12 new businesses have come or are coming to the Loop.
Primark is one of those businesses. The clothing store is opening in March of 2021 and is the largest retailer in the Loop since the start of the pandemic.
"We expect a rebound, but that rebound won’t be quick. We are looking at 2022 and 2023 for stronger numbers," said Kimberly Bares, President and CEO of Magnificent Mile Association.
In the Loop and on the Mag Mile, Chicago Police do not monitor the areas as well as private security.