More than 2.7 million people call the city of Chicago home. The Midwestern cultural hub, with its storied architecture and notable landmarks like Navy Pier, Millennium Park and Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), is the most populous city in Illinois. The greater Chicagoland metropolitan area is considered the third largest in the U.S., with approximately 10 million people.
According to city officials, a whopping 54 million domestic and international tourists flocked to Chicago in 2016 for a little sightseeing, a slice of deep-dish pizza and, of course, shopping. The Windy City is a shopper’s paradise, with more than 460 retailers, everything from luxury labels to fast fashion, lining the popular eight-block expanse of North Michigan Avenue, colloquially known as the Magnificent Mile. A report from November 2017 released by commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield (Chicago) notes Mag Mile storefronts remain lucrative, bringing in some of the highest rents in North America. In 2019, Starbucks (Seattle) will install its third Reserve Roastery in the U.S., spanning all four levels of what has been Crate & Barrel’s (Northbrook, Ill.) flagship for more than two decades.
The Hot Spots
“Chicago has been experiencing a development boom in the last few years that’s been transforming neighborhoods and the city’s skyline,” says Teddy Brown, executive creative director of the retail division FCB/RED at Chicago-based marketing agency FCB Chicago. Areas such as Fulton Market in the West Loop are brimming with new office buildings (McDonald’s will open its $250 million headquarters there this spring), mixed-use developments, residential buildings and more. The Ace Hotel opened last year in Fulton Market, near Google’s Midwest offices, while several new hotels are currently in the works.
Obstacles and Opportunities
As with any building boom, challenges arise regarding where developers choose to build. “There’s a lot of talk about making sure the balance of development is inclusive,” Brown says. “The city is interested in initiatives that are diverse, both demographically and geographically, meaning development needs to spread throughout the city and not just [be] concentrated on the North side or downtown.” Good news is there are several sites on the South side of Chicago gearing up for development, including the 440-acre former U.S. Steel South Works property on the city’s south lakefront that is said to be under consideration by Amazon for its HQ2, or second headquarters, location.